Friday, July 31, 2009

Re-Thinking Link Building Commentary

Posted by Sage Lewis on 30 July 2009

There is little more gratifying in the blogging world than when people take the time to comment on something you've written. That's especially the case when the comments are kind and thoughtful.

I was fortunate enough to have that experience with my last column, "Re-Thinking Link Building." People took a great deal of time to offer their thoughts and opinions on what it means to be a link builder.

I'd like to highlight some of the thoughts that came out of the comments from that article.

On outsourced link building, Christine wrote:

Couldn't agree more -- leaving this important task to people who don't care about your business or your site is not a good idea. I tried it once -- what we got were 200 links of such poor quality I was so embarrassed that we were being linked to from such rubbish. That was the first and last time we tried something like that. And guess what? None of those links exist anymore! So not only is it not worth the links you get, they do not last either (because spammy, poor-quality sites don't stick around for the long haul). I would rather spend my time and effort getting 1 quality link than paying for 200 poor links. Be warned -- it is not worth the risk of being "associated" with poor quality sites.

I liked the point that the links don't exist anymore. The longevity of the work here definitely should play a role.

Gerry wrote about his experience with a link building contract:

I was disgusted with the quality of links being submitted to me, including sites whose link pages weren't even in Google's indexes.

If a page that you get a link on doesn't have any value in the eyes of the search engines, then you're really wasting your money.

Jim's view of outsourced link builders is this:

They are adept at buying up the expired domains of websites with page rank, uploading a free template and filling it full of links. In many cases if you view the cached page you will still see the original webpage of the expired site. In a number of cases they haven't even bothered to replace the 'Lorem ipsum ...' holding text from the template!

Arun Gangwar correctly pointed out that we can't blanket an entire country as universally bad:

Lewis, I totally agree with you, though I am India but I believe in each and every word of you. Companies are using interns for developing links. They are not contributing to our website. Some companies submit at 200 places with in day or two. Curse!

ldpk is a link builder and wrote:

I have tried unsuccessfully in the past to hire someone to help me link build, but the skill set is very unique and when done well actually requires a lot more creativity and skill than given credit for. I have been successful in competing with much larger companies, and much larger budgets by emphasizing quality, relevant links and applying best SEO practices on the sites themselves (good copy, clean sites)... It is MAJORLY time consuming.

He also pointed out that small companies simply can't afford this kind of detail.

Spencer Rose made a similar point saying:

Seems to me like much of the internet is losing its "field leveling" quality and link building is directly responsible for that. Are ldpk and Spencer correct in this? Does quality link building only get done for companies with big budgets?

Eric Ward, one of the leading, if not the leading link building expert, had a thought on this:

99 of every 100 clients I work with are little guys. Little guys are who I prefer to work with... the little sites are what make the web great, and the little sites are the ones that can change lives. Big brands rock, but small brands are how I roll :)

Eric offers a $1,000 linking strategy session, co-citation analysis, link analytics, and recommendations report. This includes competitive citation and linking analytics for your site and up to 20 competitor or industry sites, delivery of two custom link strategy reports created for your site, and two hours by phone with live screen sharing to personally go over findings and suggestions.

That might seem like a plug for Eric. I don't know him other than what I've followed of his online. The point: $1,000 isn't a lot of money for two hours on the phone and a custom report. All of his services actually seem quite reasonable and doable for a business of any size.

I'll give the last word to Eric, who focuses on merit-based link building:

Love it when others express that link building is public relations... I still call it link building because sadly that's still what everyone is looking for. The terminology may still be evolving, but a merit based approach never goes out of style, and is all I do, year after year. I suggest we all do.


45 Creative, Clever And Effective Blog Taglines

Posted by Adam Singer on Jul 27th, 2009

Taglines are perhaps the most underrated and underused elements of personal and business blogs, yet they serve a huge function.

The social web has conditioned us to move through content-based sites quickly, and if we reach a site with an unclear thesis we’re likely to click to the next thing. You also can’t count on visitors to read your “about” page. In a world that increasingly moves at 140 characters or less, having a hook such as a clever tagline can make all the difference.

Taglines are your brand’s elevator pitch and help people get a quick snapshot of who you are. It’s your opportunity to be descriptive, catchy, memorable and create a unique brand for your blog. They also present a great opportunity for keyword inclusion, but not at the sacrifice of stickiness. Ideally you can combine something catchy and SEO friendly.

To help inspire you the next time you launch a blog – or any type of web publication – I pulled together what I think are some of the more creative, clever and effective taglines from around the blogosphere:

1. How To Change The World: A practical blog for impractical people

2. Successful Blog: You’re only a stranger once

3. Conversation Agent: Connecting ideas and people – how talk can change our lives

4. Sugarrae: Never mess with a woman who can pull rank

5. Boing Boing: A directory of wonderful things

6. PR Squared: It may be the future but you still gotta eat

7. The Consumerist: Shoppers bite back

8. Zen Habits: Simple Productivity

9. Yoast: Tweaking Websites

10. PR 2.0: The future of communication starts here

11. CopyBlogger: Copywriting tips for online marketing success

12. /Film: Blogging the reel world

13. Broadcasting Brain: Harvesting cognitive surplus for uncanny content

14. Psyblog: Understand your mind

15. Lifehacker: Tips and downloads for getting things done

16. Think Simple Now: Creativity, Clarity, Happiness

17. Violent Acres: Like you, but with poor impulse control

18. Bacon Today: Daily updates on the world of sweet, sweet bacon

19. Shoemoney: Skills to pay the bills

20. Techno Theory: Technical…Practical…Theoretically Interesting

21. Publishing 2.0: The (r)Evolution of media

22. Geek Sugar: Geek is chic.

23. Smashing Magazine: We smash you with the information that will make your life easier. Really.

24. A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

25. Steve Pavlina: Personal development for smart people

26. Simply Fired: If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.

27. So Good: An absurd look at the world of food

28. Get Rich Slowly: Personal finance that makes cents

29. Personal Branding Blog: Navigating YOU to future success

30. SEO Book: Learn. Rank. Dominate.

31. The Impulsive Buy: Putting the “ew” in product reviews

32. PluginID: Plugin to your identity

33. Kottke: Home of fine hypertext products

34. Freakonomics: The hidden side of everything (also a book, but a great tagline none-the-less)

35. Web Worker Daily: Rebooting the workforce

36. Online Marketer Blog: If Copyblogger and JaffeJuice had a bad-ass baby

37. Auto Blog: We obsessively cover the auto industry

38. Advergirl: …yeah, I have an opinion about that

39. TwiTip: Twitter tips in 140 characters or more

40. Duct Tape Marketing: Simple, effective and affordable small business marketing

41. Apartment Therapy: Saving the world, one room at a time

42. TechCult: Technology, Twisted

43. Illuminated Mind: The less boring side of personal development

44. Don’t Drink The Kool-aid: Join the conversations. Just don’t drink the Kool-aid.

45. Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters

A few quick observations noted while compiling this:

  • It was easy to get quite a few of these as the catchier taglines are sticky enough to recall without even visiting the site
  • Only a few of these taglines are conscious of SEO, but it is an opportunity
  • Many taglines were part of the image instead of as HTML text on the page, so if you’re going to include keywords be sure that they are text-based or at a minimum, include them as alt text to the image
  • Many blogs have no tagline at all, relying purely on their name to tell the story
  • Strong taglines make a great first impression
  • Descriptive taglines work just fine too if they match the content
  • Taglines can work in conjunction with the name of the blog itself – the two support each other
  • Simply reading the taglines of sites you already know can provide a mental image of the site
  • For blogs with non-descriptive names, taglines become even more important

This is of course an incomplete list, so we’ll turn it over you. Share your favorite blog taglines in the comments that you think are creative, clever or effective.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top 10 Things the Microsoft/Yahoo! Deal Changes for SEO

Posted by randfish on July 29th, 2009

The search landscape is changing significantly this morning, and SEOs of all stripes need to pay close attention. I'm going to do my best to summarize the impact of these changes based on what we already know and interpret what's going to change for the field of search engine optimization and what we, as representatives of our clients and our companies, need to know and do.

Background on the Deal

First off, a few background snippets from several of the sources on this topic - SearchEngineLand's Live Blogging Coverage; TechCrunch; ReadWriteWeb; and the new MS/Yahoo! website Choice, Value, Innovation.

  • The term of the agreement is 10 years
  • Microsoft will acquire an exclusive 10 year license to Yahoo!'s core search technologies, and Microsoft will have the ability to integrate Yahoo! search technologies into its existing web search platforms
  • Yahoo! will continue to syndicate its existing search affiliate partnerships.
  • Microsoft's Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo! sites. Yahoo! will continue to use its technology and data in other areas of its business such as enhancing display advertising technology.
  • Each company will maintain its own separate display advertising business and sales force.
  • Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies' premium search advertisers. Self-serve advertising for both companies will be fulfilled by Microsoft's AdCenter platform, and prices for all search ads will continue to be set by AdCenter's automated auction process.

In case that wasn't quite clear, the big takeaway is that Bing will now power search on Yahoo! and Yahoo!'s salesforce will sell the premium (non-self service) search advertising for Yahoo!/Bing. Bing also gets access to Yahoo!'s core search technology and can, at its option, leverage that to help create more relevant results.

  • Google has 78% of market share of paid search (direct quote on SELand from Microsoft)
  • Bartz: Yes there are many Yahoo search employees who will be asked to take jobs at Microsoft. There will also be search employees who we look to help us on the display side. And then unfortunately there will be some redundancy in Yahoo. (Just a quick note; if you work in Yahoo! search, please email me - - we're hiring on the engineering team!)
  • Bartz: Notes that when it comes to paid search, Panama is the provider in most international marketplaces for Microsoft already.
  • Danny Sullivan: What happens to other things search like at Yahoo? What powered Yahoo News? What happens to the Yahoo Directory? Is Delicious search? And what happens to Yahoo paid inclusion?
    Bartz: We have full flexibility on what to do within our own sites. Paid inclusion, we’ll decide on that later.

  • AdAge reports that ComScore shows Bing will now have a 28% market share when combined with Yahoo! search, though.
  • ReadWriteWeb worried about this large list of services from Yahoo! that are under "search services." Yahoo! PR called them to say that "this is a consumer facing list of search-related services, like News Search and Map Search, but most of those are not or are no longer formally part of the Search Department." So, probably at least some of them are safe.

Of PPC and PBJ: Combining PPC and SEO Effectively, Part 1

Posted by Herndon Hasty on 28 July 2009

The unattainable goal for many search campaigns is the ever-elusive melding of PPC and SEO tactics for bigger and better top-line results. Theoretically, the two should go together like peanut butter and jelly.

SEO's thick and salty "peanut butter" should form a strong base and combine well with PPC's more easily transplantable and sweet "grape jelly" to form an unstoppable search/sandwich force, right? Maybe, if you try to put them together in the right way.

Ensuring the two work together makes complete sense because the efforts target the same customer pool and utilize the same concepts of headline, body copy, and landing page. Heavy levels of research show that having both a natural and a paid listing result for a keyword drives more traffic, and even purchase intent.

Remember, however, that the primary ingredients of a perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich come from different jars, are applied in very different ways, and sit on top of each other rather than directly mixing. Similarly, SEO and PPC call on very different disciplines, depend heavily on different teams, and create very different effects.

Does this mean that they can't be combined effectively? Of course not -- it's just a question of drawing on the strengths of each and using them to chase the whole, rather than merely looking at the sum of their parts.

The Basics: Keywords

The ultimate goal of your paid and natural campaigns, outside of the resulting traffic/revenue/smiting of enemies, is ranking at the ideal spot for the right keywords. The best selection of keywords, however, varies from brand to brand and site to site -- even within the tightest of competitors.

Given that it takes a lot of effort to change SEO keyword strategies, and buying less-than-ideal keywords for search ads can quickly eat up your non-brand budgets for less-than-ideal returns, how can you make sure you're making the most of your opportunities?

Enter your keyword reports.

Depending on which program is more advanced, go through the natural or paid keywords that are producing the most traffic and, especially, the most revenue and frequent conversions. Go beyond the head terms of the campaign (men's shoes), and look at tail terms like descriptors (designer men's shoes vs. fashion men's shoes), superlatives (best men's shoes vs. popular men's shoes) and actions (buy men's shoes vs. shop men's shoes).

In the case of paid keywords, also be sure to focus in on exact match terms, or use Google's Search Query report so that you're looking at the exact keywords that people are using to trigger sales, rather than their phrase or broad match versions.

As your natural campaign progresses, keep your paid team up-to-date on keywords that your site is now ranking higher for (and thus might be able to help support a higher paid spend for an even better net effect) and keyword patterns that emerge as unexpected traffic and revenue drivers.

It's a tough choice between which to lean on: Natural search will tend to have the longest history but, without advanced optimization work involved, might not involve results from a full scope of keywords. PPC data depends completely on when you start and what keywords you're buying, but is more ideally suited to testing.

The Advanced: Testing and Applying

As an SEO higher-up, I see natural search as the answer to everything from "how do I drive more traffic in a recession?" to "what condiments are best to offer at a business-casual dinner party?" What it most certainly is not, however, is an ideal testing ground, given the time it can take for crawlers to even identify and apply changes to an indexed page -- let alone show it's of any value.

Your PPC campaign, however, can move in and out of keyword segments with ease, and has message testing built right into the interface. Even though you're limited to 70 characters in your ads, you can use your ad copy to test the gambit of copy approaches, from broad copy concepts (i.e. brand-centric copy vs. keyword-rich vs. arty and expressive) to specific messaging (price point vs. value) to the nitty-gritty (different calls to action, numerals and symbols vs. spelling out). You can then apply what you've learned to your natural campaign via meta descriptions (which function much like ad copy), title tags, and on-page copy.

You can also use it to test the effectiveness of landing pages, keyword sets, and even URL structures and apply it to natural search efforts.

The Aftermath: Measuring and Adjusting with the Total Effect in Mind

Your natural search just took a dive last week on your biggest brand terms. You just changed out your meta description, which alters how the page appears in the index. The two must be connected, right?

You need to stop your development team and have them scrap that change right away, right? Possibly, until you remember that you just started buying those keywords last week, too.

To some, this may sound simple and overdramatic, but it happens to the best and most attentive of us unless we have all the data in front of us. Integrating your paid and natural results for all parties involved can be just as important as integrating your actions, as it can prevent hasty and painful decisions that could easily be avoided.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Makes an SEO

Posted by randfish on July 28th, 2009

There are lots of standardized definitions of SEO (see define query), but few that exist to define or distill the qualities that make a person a professional SEO. The way I see it, there are three ways a professional can be categorized and assigned - technical, self-constructed and peer validated.

Technical: An SEO is one who practices search engine optimization.

Self-Constructed: I practice search engine optimization as a significant portion of the professional work I undertake and am, therefore, an SEO.

Peer Validated: A community of peers in the SEO field has recognized this individual's achievement and views them as qualified for the title.

In the SEO world, these are very informal and anyone is technically allowed to call themselves what they like (and though I'll quibble later in the post with some self-titling, I don't believe any regulation should exist). However, in many other fields, primarily those with a long-established history (lawyer, doctor, law enforcement, engineer, politician), external requirements are a neccessity.

That said, the SEO community appears to be growing in its formalization. Events, organizations, and external recognition, along with the growing value and importance of the practice seem, to me, to be the driving forces at work. I love this community and always have - it's inspired me, carried me and given me so much that I can never repay enough, but I'd like to add a brief editorialization. It is my personal opinion that unless an individual has these three qualities, I would not personally peer-validate them as an SEO and would hope to be cast out should I not personally exhibit these:

  1. Knowledgable in the Basics of Search Engine Operations (not just SEO, but the fundamentals of how search engines work)
  2. Actively Practicing SEO by Influencing Change to Websites & Pages and Measuring the Impact
  3. Consistently Formulating & Testing Theories About Metrics/Variables that Influence Search Engine Results

I've been a bit frustrated of late by the demeaning of our profession by those who do not take the practice seriously nor apply the craft with the respect it's due. And, furthermore, I'm conflicted about those who'd suggest that our field or our practice should not embrace the principles above. It seems disingenuous, even intellecutally dishonest, to claim to "optimize" for search engines, and yet be lacking in knowledge, not actively practicing (and measuring!), or refrain from critical thinking, brainstorming, forming hypotheses and testing.

Am I too harsh? Should I be more lenient? Or, do we, as a community, want to apply some standards in peer validating those who claim the title of SEO? If so... Are these the right ones?


Sunday, July 26, 2009

How to Analyze and Rate Keyword Difficulty in Google

Posted by Codex-M

You may have thought about the keywords for which you want your site to rank well in the search engines, but do you have any idea how difficult it will be to rank for those words? Just how many sites are competing for visitors with phrases like "dog training" or "mortgage broker"? If you're not sure, keep reading; this article will explain the factors you must consider when trying to learn how difficult it will be to rank for your chosen keywords.

In any search engine optimization activities, keyword research is the most important element. This is because the content placed on any page of a website with the intention to get good rankings in Google depends on the targeted keywords.

Most website owners fail to realize the importance of analyzing the difficulty of the keywords they are targeting. As a result, their search engine optimization campaign is very difficult and costly.

When the campaign is difficult, it's hard to climb up the rankings. This leads to a higher campaign cost because you'll need a larger amount of resources to get feasible results. More expensive campaigns tend to give a lower return of investment for the business.

This is one of the big reasons there are a lot of websites that are not making money due to the wrong choice of keywords.

This article dissects the mystery of keyword difficulty in Google to come up with a process of analyzing and rating of keywords to target.

Using this methodology will minimize campaign difficulty while attaining a good conversion rate for your website. As a result, you will gain a good return of investment for your online business.

This article will discuss each factor defining the difficulty of keywords in Google, and then propose a method for rating the keywords so that you can easily see which keyword or key phrase is the best to target.


Google Certified SEOs = Top Contributors / Bionic Posters?

One person posted a rant in the Google Webmaster Help forums about the "Top Contributors / Bionic Posters" in that forum. In short, Top Contributors / Bionic Posters are given the title by Googlers, who believe that these people are smart enough, experienced enough, skilled enough and helpful enough to be giving answered at Googler levels. But this person felt the Top Contributors / Bionic Posters were not helpful.

The interesting part of this thread is that Googler, JohnMu, does the right thing and backs up the Top Contributors / Bionic Posters with a really nice post. The post, kind of leads me to see that Google may (maybe stretching it here) consider the Top Contributors / Bionic Posters as "certified Google SEOs," if there is such a thing. Google does have certified AdWords professionals, Ad Manager pros, Google Apps, etc, but not Google SEOs, simply because it is something that would be considered very controversial on many levels. But in a sense, these Top Contributors / Bionic Posters are Google Certified SEOs.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Whiteboard Friday - The Future of SEO

Posted by great scott on July 23rd, 2009

Thanks to a suggestion from @links4legends we're strapping on our jetpacks for a bit of SEO prognostication this week. Rand offers up his take on what the future will bring for search marketers.

Will classic, content-based SEO still rule the SERPs? Will the social graph drastically alter how results are personalized? What about query volume and traffic data: will they become major signals in the algorithms? Will vertical search portals begin to steal users from the big three, or just get gobbled up? Will opinion-based theories die a fiery death at the hands of data-driven testing?

Who knows?! The "answers" to all of this and more await you in this week's Whiteboard Friday (cue squiggly dissolve and space sounds).

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday - The Future of SEO from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

50 Ways to FAIL On Twitter

Posted by Lee Odden on Jul 23rd, 2009

Like many others, I scoffed at Twitter when I first heard of it. What use could sending short messages to people I don’t know be? The mental leap from IM and Facebook status updates to Twitter makes it easier, but business use seemed pointless at first. As I noticed more of my Search, Social and PR industry peers using Twitter, it seemed a good idea to test out.

While I don’t have a million followers, or even 100,000, I’ve found out that for my purposes, quality is the key and the 13k or so followers I am lucky to be associated with are appreciated a lot more. Being strategically useful and helpful builds trust, attracts influential followers (vs bots and spammers) and results in a new channel for social networking. Individual tweets may or may not be useful, but when you add them up over time, a bigger picture emerges.

Twitter Marketing tips are not hard to come by. Ease of use combined with the overall ease of publishing online makes available more than enough advice on using Twitter as a consumer as well as for brand monitoring, marketing, customer service, real-time search, competitive intelligence and even direct sales.

Yes, there’s plenty of advice on what you should do with Twitter, but based on increasing mis-behaviors, there are many ways to fail. Below is a list of 10 “Don’ts” on Twitter from me, followed by 40 more provided by the smart Tweeple who responded on Twitter :

  • Don’t auto reply follows with a link to your free piece of crap ebook. This sentiment is shared several times below.
  • Don’t provide an obscure description of who you are and what you do
  • No photo or an image that only makes sense to you and your imaginary friends
  • Don’t mention a great resource with no link
  • Not customizing your background
  • Don’t post 10 messages in succession (also repeated below)
  • Don’t follow over 1000 people in a 2 hour period
  • Don’t write about the cat/hamster/potted plant over and over again
  • Don’t swear often and expect business people to take you seriously (Unless you work for Outspoken Media)
  • Don’t over-abbreviate.

Here are a few “Twitter FAIL” tips from Tweeple following @leeodden

  • @glenngabe DON’T tell people on the public timeline that someone else is on vacation. Saw this happen last week… Can get a house robbed!
  • @glenngabe DON’T reply on the public timeline when you meant to DM (or when it should be a DM…)
  • @cyandle don’t retweet EVERYTHING…
  • @kholloway Don’t expect me to follow you if you have 0 updates
  • @aimclear DO research content you recommend, add value to the bookmark, Success is gained by offering value, Friends made by being a friend.
  • @aimclear Don’t compliment gratuitously in public
  • @shelisrael Don’t tell people not to do something on Twitter. It will just give them ideas.
  • @kenburbary Obvious but annoying, DON’T auto DM spam (also mentioned by @CarrieHill @Justin_Freid @NicoleElise)
  • @RonArden Twitter don’ts: don’t send spam and don’t send me ads for things. This is the quickest way to get me to unfollow someone.
  • @doctordns Just don’t be stupid – some people will take whatever you write and use it against you. If not now, then when you least expect it!
  • @JeremyMeyers “don’t” spend all your time on twitter talking about twitter (also mentioned by @timjahn)
  • @thelostagency dont tweet broken links, and if you are retweeting check link is accurate and not spam/broken
  • @rickburnes Don’t pretend that Twitter alone is a marketing plan (you only get referrals from Twitter if you have great content to refer to).
  • @steveplunkett don’t ever argue.. in writing on twitter…
  • @Aerocles Don’t tweet breaking news that’s more than one hour old, we’ve all heard/seen it already
  • @brandonfritz@leeodden Don’t St@lk
  • @KateOnline Don’t take credit for tweets that did not originate from you (also mentioned by @matthewdiehl)
  • @glager Dont report on every piece of news you can get your hands on
  • @kimgarretson Don’t tweet about your need for coffee in the mornings. This has moved past cliche to downright irritating.
  • @Ms_Write Test links before tweeting them. Nothing worse then a dead link.
  • @MBenti Before you use twitter for your business b/c it’s the “thing to do”, take time to observe and figure it out for yourself.
  • @Zarniwhooper Don’t retweet something and leave off the original Twitter poster. Always give credit to those who wrote it first.
  • @KaseyInCharge here’s a “don’t”: don’t talk about ways to increase followers. so annoying. people are here for conversation…
  • @AmberGallihar Don’t repost the same tweet more than three times. We saw it.
  • @Zarniwhooper Don’t say anything that could get you fired or prevent you from getting a job.
  • @Zarniwhooper Don’t be boring. A simple rule is “Never tweet about food or the weather. And never your bathroom habits. Seriously. Never.
  • @steveplunkett no foul language in same tweet as a URL. (SafeSearch Anchor text)
  • @Saudiqua Don’t tweet emotional rants!
  • @bobmutch ya don’t share stuff you are doing or going to do that is too personal
  • @melaniemitchell don’t sell to people who don’t care about what you have to say.
  • @michaelpearsun Don’t worry about your follower count. It’s about quality.
  • @michaelpearsun Don’t let spammers into your feed
  • @marrina Re-tweet of a re-tweet. So annoying.
  • @patiomensch First, you must call it a list of “don’ts” (ah, the spelling Fail)
  • @EstrellaBella10 Don’t post multiple back-to-back updates on Twitter. Many people have complained about that.
  • @myklroventine Don’t try to explain it to Letterman
  • @imeldak Don’t join things that gets you thousands of ‘instant’ followers. Quality of followers is always better than quantity
  • @anon Don’t post a link to a picture of yourself with a large knife, especially if you are a governor
  • @anon Responses to ethics charges are probably best left for a forum where you can respond with more than 140 characters

Last, but not least: @marrinaHelp compile a list of “dont’s” for Twitter

That should get our “What not to do on Twitter list” party started. What are your Twitter dont’s?


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

High Impact/Low Effort SEO from a Developer's Perspective

Posted by jennita on July 22nd, 2009

When was the last time you had a heated discussion with your developer? Or better yet, when was the last time they rolled their eyes at you when you asked them to make some sort of change to the website? My guess is that it probably hasn't been all that long. Or has it? A higher probability is actually that you work with some wicked smart developers who blow your mind away with their sheer awesomeness!

Recently, there was a post over on YOUmoz about the naivete and misconceptions that developers have about SEOs written by cyberpunkdreams. He had gotten into a conversation with a group of developers who thought that SEOs were spammers and were only out to get bad sites at the top of the rankings. The dialogue on this topic is interesting, because at the same time that developers are thinking we're a bunch of spammers, we, as SEOs also have misconceptions about developers in general.

Sure, there are many developers out there who may not specifically focus on SEO, nor do they have a keen knowledge of everything that goes into ranking well. But they are no dummies. They often are very analytical and can think through problems or come up with excellent solutions to issues. They can create an algorithm that will take 8 different pieces of data from the database and build dynamic title tags with length restrictions, keyword usage, and anything else you want to throw at them. Without our technical counterparts, our jobs would be pretty boring, since half of the tasks we need completed, we can't do on our own.

With all this said, I decided to run a little test and find out what developers felt were the top 5 changes they could make to a website to provide high SEO impact and value with a low level of effort. I set out on a mission to contact developers through Twitter, Faceboook, email and IM. As I'm writing this I'm wondering now if they wondered what the heck I was asking them this question for. Little did they know they were going to be quoted in this post. :)

Top 5 SEO Changes

This list is derived directly from the responses I received via Twitter, Facebook, IM and email from 13 different developers. With that, here's a list of ways developers can optimize their site for highest impact, with the lowest amount of effort, from their perspectives.

  1. Title Tag
    This was overwhelmingly the top response by most of the developers. Many of them specifically mentioned building dynamic title tags, and not just hand coding each page.
    Reference: Best Practices for Title Tags

  2. Canonical URL Tag
    Multiple people mentioned the canonical URL tag which I found very exciting. In the SEO world we all got super giddy when this tag came out, and it's great to know that it has surfaced as an important feature for developers as well.
    Reference: Canonical URL Tag - The Most Important Advancement in SEO Practices Since Sitemaps
  1. Permalinks
    Get your URLs right! I built dynamic URLs for years that were not user friendly at all. There are so many options to rewrite and redirect your URLs, and many CMS's are getting more and more SEO savvy.
    Reference: Dynamic URLs vs. Static URLs - The Best Practice for SEO is Still Clear

  2. Robots.txt
    Although the robots.txt file is there to help a site owner make sure that the right areas are being crawled, if it set up incorrectly it could do more damage than it's worth. The theme from the developers was to make sure that you don't have "Disallow: /" or are in some way blocking access to relevant areas of the site.
    Reference: Managing Robot’s Access To Your Website - From

  3. Image Alt Tags
    For me, this should actually be moved further up the list. This is a big one, as we've been talking about lately that keyword rich (not spammy) image alt tags correlate with higher rankings. Now before you go and get all huffy, puffy about this one, watch the Whiteboard Friday about Correlation, Causation and SEO.
WOW! Blows your mind right? Nope. Not so much. Developers actually DO live on the same planet with SEOs. In fact this list might very well have come from any one of us. Developers are knowledgeable. Be sure to give them the credit they deserve for knowing the things you don't. The beauty in the SEO/developer relationship is that they shouldn't have to know everything you know, and you shouldn't have to know everything they know. :)

Also worth noting, but didn't make the top 5 list, were dynamic meta tags, internal linking, valid X(HTML), URL Hierarchy and fixing bad navigation.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brand Promotion Online -- Signals for Today's SEO

Posted By Mark Jackson on 21 July 2009

I've recently discussed some of the fundamentals of SEO that haven't changed for some time. Now let's touch upon the "new" realities of SEO and what you need to do to build your brand online.

Why Branding?

Well, you may have heard it mentioned that Google wants to rank brand Web sites. It isn't so much that Google only wants to rank big brands. But they do like all of the signals that these big brands carry.

Big brands, more often than not, have very deep/informational Web sites and have their share of other Web sites linking to them. These are two very important "signals" of the authority of these Web sites.

So, to dig into this deeper, I consult with Wikipedia (a "big brand"):

People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique. A brand is therefore one of the most valuable elements in an advertising theme, as it demonstrates what the brand owner is able to offer in the marketplace. The art of creating and maintaining a brand is called brand management.

What Makes Your Web Presence 'Special or Unique'?

How are you going about your brand management? Part of doing well, organically, in the search engines is having a deep, informational Web site that has plenty of (good) links to it.

Wikipedia certainly measures up to this, with around 47 million pages indexed in Yahoo and 179 million backlinks, sitewide. This is the best example of creating good, unique content that people will want to link to as a reference (as I've just done).

There are other signals that make you a "big brand" to the search engines; things that can help you build a big brand online, without the expense of international marketing efforts that may have made Coca-Cola and others big, back in the days of traditional marketing only.

Today, it's possible -- even for smaller companies -- to build a big brand online at a greatly reduced price compared with what Coca-Cola had done through years of television, radio, and print advertising.

And, the nice thing about these "branding" efforts is that they can, at least indirectly, be measured as they impact your ability to rank in the search engines, gain quality traffic to your Web site, and grow your bottom line.

Expand Your Web Presence

Here's a list of some of the signals that you may want to begin strategizing against:

  1. Blogging: This isn't new. Still today, however, some companies refuse to get into the blogging game for fear of what "might be said about them" or that they would have to divulge company secrets. Successful blogging requires that you provide something of value to your readers. When you provide useful information, and you promote it to the masses (social media marketing), you'll gain links to your Web site in much the same manner as Wikipedia.
  2. Press Releases: "Traditional" press releases were for the benefit of reaching journalists in the hopes that they might write an article in their magazines/newspapers or cover it on television news/radio. Today, these press releases can be found in Google's universal results (if you select the proper method of distribution) and add quality links to your Web site (using quality anchor text within the press release; drive deep links to areas of your Web site that you would like to promote).
  3. Social Media Channels: A quality post doesn't mean much if no one reads it or links to it. So, you must have access to a network of "friends" on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others to make sure you have readers. Be sure that your posts also allow the reader to easily promote the posts to their network.
  4. Link Building: Back in the old days, it was all about reciprocal link building (i.e., I add a link to your Web site and then request that you link back to me). What does this tell the search engines? That you're somehow affiliated or partnered with this company? Better still, that a number of people link to you and you aren't linking out to a number of people. Right? When that happens, it's probably a signal of your brand/authority. And, if a number of people that happen to be linking to you also happen to be within your industry, or are writing a blog post titled "Search Engine Optimization -- The Very Best Resource Available" and linking to, that will probably be a good vote that Search Engine Watch is a great resource for "search engine optimization resources," right? If enough quality Web sites are doing this, that's a pretty strong signal to Google that you should be ranked.

All of these help you gain reach and frequency. More importantly, you'll reach those who are interested in your products and services.

This isn't a "run of network" buy. This is targeted "advertising." Many of these channels aren't directly measureable to ROI, and I know that the struggle is how do you budget for something like this, call it "search engine optimization," and not have it be directly measureable to a ROI.

The truth is, branding still works. And, there are methods to measure many of these to a ROI. But, the real benefits could be in the form of more people searching specifically for your brand.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting an SEO Copywriting Job

Posted by Lucy Langdon 20 July 2009

The inspiration for this post came when I was chatting with a recently graduated friend of mine who'd been looking for work online. Much like myself when I graduated with that all-purpose English Lit degree, she was looking for copywriting jobs online. Before I started at Distilled I did a bit of freelance writing so I knew exactly where she was coming from. Out of curiosity, I decided to have a poke around craigslist and gumtree- a couple of regular haunts of mine about 18 months ago. The very first thing I noticed was that the vast majority all of the writing jobs mentioned SEO, if not in their title then somewhere in their description. I don't remember it being like that all.

Obviously, SEO copywriting isn't as new as 18 months, but it is impressive how the landscape has changed so that now some awareness of writing for SEO (and a lot of the jobs were asking for more than that) is nigh on essential to landing some work.

This post is a fairly simple checklist for copywriters who need to be able to walk the SEO walk. It's pretty top level but I've made sure to link out to essential resources.

I just looked on craigslist and found this handy ad that illustrates exactly what I mean:

1. Web-savvy content writer
What it is: Last time I checked, 'savvy' was something this dashing young pirate said a lot. However, on closer inspection, I can reveal that web-savvy nirvana can be reached simply by getting acquainted with the Internet. You should probably know who this and this are. Web savvy folk know how to Google.
How to have it: Make sure you know what a blog is and be able to talk about them without sounding stupid, (you can write a blog post, post a post, write posts, even post posts, but you can't post or write 'blogs', unless you actually mean publish to more than one different website). Have your favourite three websites tattooed on the inside of your eyelids. You might also want to write why you like them on the back of your hand- is their usabiilty to die for? Have they fully unleashed the power of social media? Actually, it'd be worthwhile getting to know a social media site or two- Reddit and Digg are the hotspots for what's hot online. Here's a handy list if you're playing catch up.
Buzz word/s: RSS, Technorati, Firefox or Chrome, social media, hot trends

2. Produce and upload
What it is: The produce bit's ok, but what's that sneaky upload? This is the point where your writing gets put on the Internet for other people to read. If you're anything like me, that whole 'other people reading it' takes a tiny bit of getting used to. There are a few ways your writing can get uploaded but if it's more complicated that publishing a blog post I shouldn't think you'll be expected to do it without help the first few times.
How to have it: My advice is get your own blog and try uploading a few posts. It's easy once you get going and is also a great place to showcase anything you've written. It's also a great way to practice some basic html. If you're really busy/lazy, try just signing up to a social media site and submitting someone else's content. It's a different process, but the simple act of publishing something online can be a bit daunting first time round.
Buzz word/s: Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, CMS

3. Keyword rich, compelling content
What it is: Ah, keywords. This is how search engines work- keywords (or keyphrases) are very important. This'll do for a very short definition: keywords are the words or phrases people use in the search engines to find what they're looking for. A lot of job adverts ask for a basic level of keyword research. Check out this introduction. You also need to learn about actually writing optimized copy.
As a side note, there are quite a few misconceptions about keyword use out there. Back in the day, something called 'keyword stuffing' or achieving the right 'keyword density' was all the rage. If a potential employer asks you to do that sort of thing, you should have the confidence to tell them that practice won't help, and writing well-optimized and, most importantly, natural copy will be much better for their site.
How to have it: I think keywords are the beginning and end of SEO. They're important across so much of what we do. You have to see them as part of the whole; understand where they come from and how to use them before you actually try finding them. There are lots of online tools you can use to find out keywords and estimate their importance to your writing. I started out on SEObook's keyword tool and now mostly use Google's Keyword Tool.
Buzz word/s: keyword/keyphrase research, meta tags, optimization, keyword stuffing

4. Website needs viewers
What it is: Viewers, traffic, users, customers, visitors- all pretty much the same thing. These are the people sitting at their computer that arrive on the website in question via any number of ways. More often than not, these viewers will need to be 'converted'. That can mean anything from signing up to a newsletter to buying a sofa- and your copy will come into play somewhere along the way. Your copy might also need to attract visitors. I've written more on that below.
How to have it: As far as this ad goes, you just have to write well. Obey all the usual rules about old school copywriting- don't babble endlessly with words that only you and your much-missed Professor understand. Don't try and be funny unless you actually are.
Buzz words/s: traffic, Google Analytics

5. SEO efforts
What it is: SEO is Search Engine Optimization. It's very similar to SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and on the same page as PPC (Pay Per Click). As for 'SEO efforts', I'd take a guess that this is the same as the point above. Websites undertake SEO to bring more visitors to their sites by ranking better in the search engines.
How to have it: Learn the basics of SEO. is one of the best places to start.
Buzz word/s: blackhat, whitehat, SEO, SEM, PPC, CRO

6. Web link campaigns
What it is: After copy come links (as a writer, I'm a little biased). The phrasing's a bit strange in the advert, but they're almost certainly talking about dedicated linkbuilding, which is really just a part of SEO. There are lots and lots of ways to linkbuild. One method might be to promote the quality content you have been hired to write.
How to have it: Learn about why links are important to the search engines and understand the philosophy behind why people link. The search engines essentially see a link from one website to another as a vote. Understand the difference between a spammy footer link and a quality editorial link and the different value of each of those.
Buzz word/s: anchor text, linkbuilding, spiders, indexing

7. Social networking
What it is: A social network is an online community- they hang out on forums, blogs and social media sites. LOTS of people use them on the Internet, some for fun, some for profit, some for pure unadulterated spamming. A few of these sites have 100,000's of users and getting your content to appear prominently on their radar can obviously bring a lot of traffic and links to your site.
How to have it: Start by spending time with a few different online communities. You'll soon notice the one or two you keep returning to. Treat the group like you would an offline community and you'll soon earn your place amongst the ranks. Be warned: social networks can become a time vacuum that you will never truly recover from. Subscribe to a few blogs that regularly appear in these social networks- Cracked and The Onion are a couple of my favourites.
Buzz word/s: social media sites, Twitter, linkbait

8. Online PR

What it is: It's kind of the same as offline PR except that it's more informal. You can use sites to publish and distribute your Press Releases in an SEO friendly way, or you can go directly to webmasters and bloggers to see if they want to cover the story. It's all in the same bag really.
How to have it: Have a go at submitting a press release- you can do it for free. Wait a few hours and then google a section of the release and see how many results appear. Or, if you're feeling really brave, try pitching an idea for a post to a blog you enjoy reading. This is called guest-posting or guest-blogging and is a really good way to get coverage of something you want to draw attention to.
Buzz word/s: news wire, PR Web, guest blogging

9. Natural search
What it is: As opposed to unnatural search? Natural search just means visitors that come through searching in the engines and didn't click on a sponsored listing (aka a PPC ad).
How to have it: As above, learn SEO. It can seem a bit overwhelming to begin with but what you have to remember is that a lot of the stuff that gets discussed day to day to do with search is quite high-level. The basics of copywriting for SEO are fairly easy to master, particularly if you spend a bit of time actually having a go, rather than just reading!
Buzz word/s: Organic traffic, search

10. Create great content that ranks on search

What is it: Content is king. Another tattoo for the back of your eyelids. And, crucially, this is why you're getting hired to write about your Top 10 Favourite Bond Villains. Content that ranks on search means content that ranks naturally in the search engines.
How to have it: All your new found SEO skills (and related buzzwords) will help, but just being able to write in a clear, concise, engaging and readable manner will do wonders.
Buzz word/s: Content is king, optimized copy


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Top 5 SEO No-No's

Posted by Rob Fleming on 17 July 09

As a SEO professional the majority of my time is spent correcting the SEO errors and mistakes made by my customers. The art of effective SEO optimization is convoluted with many variables, and although you can Google SEO optimization and find literally thousands of results on the subject with tips, tricks, and strategies; until you remove all unfriendly SEO code your site is doomed in gaining prominent placement on the SERPs.

1. Avoid the use of flash, DHTML, and internal java script. These coding practices offer slick visual enhancements, but are some of the biggest SEO killers. Search engine spiders see flash objects as big chunks of empty web space because there isn’t an effective SEO method to tag them to be crawled by the spiders. If you are using flash for photo slideshows then convert them into pop-up pages and reinforce them with keyword rich content and anchor text.

DHTML and link roll over effects bloat the html coding of your website and remove the important “alt” and image “title” tags which help to further weaken your SEO ranking potential. The best menu linking method is “text” based links with keyword rich anchor text. The same goes for internal java scripting this coding just pushes your relevant content down further into your code and slows the search engine spiders crawling your site. Convert your internal scripts into external .js applets and drop them in a folder in your site.

2. Non-unique, duplicate, or non-relevant content. Your websites content should be fresh and always match and relate to your sites niche. If you are selling party supplies then it would be a bad idea to have pages or content about bowling balls. Duplicate or redundant content is a big no-no as well; part of the Google PR algorithm is based on fresh relevant content.

3. Keyword stuffing and hidden text. Google and the other major search engines view these practices as spamming and can get your sites sandboxed (dropped so low on the SERPs that no one will ever find it!) or banned altogether. Keep your keyword density to no more than 5%, and never use hidden text.

4. Poor Meta data. Your Meta data is the information that tells the search engine spiders what each page of your site is about and how it relates to your content. Research your keywords and phrases and always a unique keyword rich tile for each page, avoiding stop words like “and, or, the, if, it, were”. Keep you title to 57 characters or less. Your description tag should be short and no longer than a sentence or two. Your keyword tag should always have your primary keyword first, and that keyword should also be in the first sentence on your page content. Don’t bloat this tag with dozens of keywords; this will only hurt your ranking potential. Use no more than 10-12 per page and build landing or gateway pages to promote additional keywords.

5. Always use “alt”, link, and header (H1, H2, Etc) tags. Each image and hyperlink on your site is meaning less to the search engine spiders if it isn’t tagged with relevant keyword descriptive phrases. When tagging your menu links never use tags like “click here” etc. always be descriptive. Your content needs to be user-friendly first then SEO friendly. Avoid long paragraphs. Use bullets and numbering to summarize and break up long text. This will make your key points stand out to your web visitors and to the search engine spiders as well. Always use header tags to highlight important information. A trick I always us is I start of using the H2 tag at the top of my pages and use the H1 tag further down. It seems that almost every SEO tech starts off with the H1 tag and this has caused the major search engines to give less weight to the H1 tag as a result. This doesn’t mean it is useless, but when used second or third I have noticed better results.

There are so many important strategies in achieving top ranking on Google and the other search engines, but by getting back to basics and making your site SEO and user friendly, you will have a clean web pallet to work with and build upon.

Keep your site filled with fresh relevant content, avoid “Black Hat” and deceptive practices and keep your pages easy to navigate and informative and you site will gain higher SERPs long before those who disregard or do not follow SEO best practices!


Create a press release optimization strategy to enhance your SEO program

Posted by Craig Abramson on 18 July 09

Most companies understand the importance of distributing press releases to promote product launches, make special announcements, or even responding to controversy. But the press release isn’t just a promotional vehicle to be used by large companies relying on public relations firms to develop the best message. All companies should take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them through the use of press releases. In fact, press release optimization (PRO) should play a key role in any search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

So how does PRO enhance SEO? The key is to use the various press release distribution services available on the Web that enable you to link content in your press release to your Web site. By adding these links, it helps build your Google PageRank, which effects your keyword position on the leading search engine.

Using these distribution services is important for another reason as well; the major search engines will only include two links to your Web site per keyword search. But by distributing your release, news about your company can take up countless positions on a keyword search. For example, I was targeting an accounts payable phrase for one project. We already achieved a listing in the top two positions on Google. Soon after we issued a new press release that focused on the keyword phrase, we actually took over the top 7 positions on Google and all 10 on Yahoo. This ensures that if anyone does this keyword search, they’ll see our company. If they click on the press release link to read it, they’ll have numerous opportunities to click on specific keywords that link back to our corporate site.

All of this is accomplished with very little spend. The services can cost anywhere from $1 up to $300. They typically offer different programs; some are enhanced specifically for SEO purposes. Some of the better performing services include,,, and These also distribute your release over the wire so it will be picked up by numerous other online sites through RSS feeds.

Of course, you may think this sounds like a great idea but you can’t think of an announcement that you’d make that’s newsworthy. That’s the wrong type of thinking. Almost any new program you implement, new product feature, new product offering, new service, or new sale can be incorporated into a press release. For example, if you are launching a new Webinar, you should issue a press release about it. Did you recently make a significant sale? Are you speaking at a tradeshow or industry event? Are you offering a new product or service? Did you make a significant new hire? All of these are press release-worthy.

When writing the press release, you have to consider what keyword(s) you want to target. Typically, you want to work this keyword in to the headline of your press release and in the first paragraph with a link back to your Web page in which this keyword is targeted. It’s important though not to force the keyword in to the copy. It should flow naturally with the news you’re presenting.

Several of these press release distribution services enable you to include several hyperlinks back to different pages on your site. It’s important to take advantage of this opportunity as long as the keyword links flow with the story. But you can always work critical keywords into your company boilerplate that appears at the end of the press release.

PRO is often overlooked because many companies think they’re too small to issue a release. In fact, it’s even more imperative for smaller companies to issue a press release to make sure their company can be found through keyword searches. It’s a cost-effective way to compete with the larger companies and make a significant impact in your SEO program.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Chris Boggs Building Directory Links: A Valuable SEO Tactic?

Posted by Chris Boggs on

Although many SEO experts differ on the specific tactics required to gain organic search visibility, the majority of them would place a relatively equal emphasis on the refinement of site structure and taxonomy/hierarchy, the importance of having relevant and indexable content, and the value of inbound links. Each of these focus areas has a variety of different tasks and goals associated.

To ensure the validity of each individual SEO tactic, it's important to constantly measure the performance of each tactic. This can be very difficult, because often many of the recommendations for SEO are implemented in conjunction.

However, in some situations, establishing case studies can measure the apparent results of a specific tactic. From a link building perspective, one of the longest-tenured tactics to employ is to build links within topical free and paid directories.

In late 2008, we launched three new pages within a specific business line of a financial services client. The content was optimized, and some internal links were established in order to get the content indexed. Our next step was for the link development team to request links from free and paid directories.

Let's look at a case study of the results of this effort.

The Situation and Tactical Execution

The three pages we were dealing with were somewhat orphaned within the normal navigation structure of the site, due to the majority of the site's content being "behind regionalization." As part of our overarching strategy, these three business-line-specific pages were created with the intention of providing valuable content that the search engines could index. In order to build immediate relevance and inbound links to the new pages, our "low-hanging fruit" was the ability to place links within directories.

We use a combination of paid and free directories when establishing these types of links to client sites, and these often vary based on the subject or niche of the destination pages. However, from a high level, there are a few directories that we have consistently achieved results form. These include the two most important and historically effective: Yahoo and Best of the Web.

We typically update our high-level list of paid directories to consider at least quarterly, or as research indicates a loss or gain of authority within the eyes of the search engines. Currently, additional paid directories that we have confidence in include, Starting Point, and Fees are associated with the review of the site, ranging from $39.99 (Joe Ant) up to $299 (Yahoo). Some are one-time fees, while others are yearly renewals (BOTW and some others offer an option).

Since at least 2004, I've told Web marketers that the $299 yearly fee for Yahoo is one of the best ways to spend money to help drive authority and relevance to a Web page. Yahoo charges annually, and for the same cost, a permanent, editable link and description is available at BOTW.

We submitted the three pages to a selection of these paid directories, as well as a handful of free directories. When we submit to directories, we expect rapid indexing for the paid ones, and a somewhat slower approval process for the free directories. This actually isn't a problem for us, as it paces out the time between links being established to pages, and subsequently indexed and counted by search engines.

Also, we optimized our submission process through a number of other ways that I can't share due to risking losing intellectual capital. But catch me at SES San Jose, and maybe I can talk through some of those considerations.

The Results

As expected, we began to see increased visibility for the pages within about 30 to 45 days after the paid directory links went live. Visibility, of course, never automatically equals traffic, so we measured visits to these pages and subsequent conversions, and were happy to see that these both increased dramatically after the implementation of the directory links.

We must give some credit to the optimized content and the authority of the domain, but we're very confident that the results can be at least 50 percent attributed to the implementation of the directory links, especially because we held off on direct request tactics until 120 days out, in order to measure the directory performance.

The final results that we attributed to the directory link building include a lift of traffic to levels enjoyed by other highly visible site pages, within 90 days, and an increase in monthly conversions for the business line of 45 percent year-over-year, when they had less content to target that niche. We have since moved on to additional link development tactics and have achieved incremental success for the business line.

Don't overlook the power of building links within established and trusted directories. It should be a fundamental part of any offsite SEO strategy. I look forward to reading your thoughts within the comments.

Frank Watson Fires Back

Directory listings are a must for any real SEO effort. I make it part of every recommendation to new clients. I'm a big fan of BOTW because they allow deep links -- that is, you can get listed for the various categories of your site versus the one listing over at Yahoo.

People should also look for any decent directories in their niche. Some make a good additional place to help build recognition.

I also look for places that generate you traffic. While the link love is nice, a directory that actually sends you traffic is a real win/win.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Re-Thinking Link Building

Posted By Sage Lewis on 16 July 09

I've yet to meet anyone who loves to chase down links. In my office, it's often who got "stuck" doing links.

Some people outright refuse to do it. It's boring, tedious, and doesn't provide a great deal of intellectual fulfillment.

Getting somebody to do your link building for you would be a big relief. And if you could get somebody else to do your link building cheaply, that would simply be amazing.

According to this survey of 120 respondents, 62 percent of them used interns for their link building. That's a lot of link building by people that don't know your business very well, and are likely to have never done any link building before.

One alternative that appears to be growing in popularity is outsourcing link building to India. A guy at work is experimenting with it on his personal site. And we all get a lot of spammy e-mail about outsourced link building as well.

According to the Google keyword tool, these are the top 10 most-searched phrases containing the phrase "link building":

  • link building (90,500)
  • link building services (12,100)
  • link building service (5,400)
  • seo link building (4,400)
  • link building india (3,600)
  • link building company (2,400)
  • link building strategies (1,600)
  • link building software (1,300)
  • link popularity building (1,300)
  • link building campaign (1,300)

The numbers in that list represent "Global Monthly Search Volume." "Link building India" is the fifth most-searched phrase in this set. Clearly, there's a lot of interest in this.

The spam I've been getting has been promoting an offer of $5 per link. The entry-level package is 75 links for $550, which is over $7 per link. You have to buy the 200 link package for $995 to get the $5 per link rate. That's still pretty reasonable. Filling out the form by itself is probably worth $7.

With 3,600 searches in Google for the phrase "link building India" and 62 percent of people surveyed passing off link building to interns, this leads me to believe that getting links is classified as a menial task. It's considered a necessary evil that anyone can do.

What's the True Value of Link Building?

I have mixed thoughts about all of this.

First, I'm a link building idealist. Link building should be built around something worth linking to. You first have content, a tool, or something that makes your site unique. Then you go out and ask people to link to it.

If you have a three-page brochure site, you probably don't deserve the links. The outsourced link builders in India aren't concerned with your content at all. You can have the worst site ever created, and they'll still be more than happy to get you 200 links for $995.

Second, I also have a realist bone somewhere in my body. Sites often do better in the search engines after implementing campaigns such as these.

As long as the links are mildly related to what you do, aren't put across an entire Web site (site-wide links), and are one way -- pointing to your site without you having to link to them -- then they often help. They might not be the greatest links, but they seem to help get things rolling, especially for new sites.

Re-Thinking Link Building

Ultimately, the problem begins in the vocabulary: link building. We're building links. There is no other goal other than that. Just build, build, build. And then build some more.

If 10 are good, 1,000 must be amazing. The phrase implies quantity over quality.

"Link builders" should start thinking of themselves as public relations experts. After a company posts a news story on their Web site, then these online public relations experts try to get the story posted on appropriate Web sites, with a link back to the news.

I wish we could drop this whole "link building" phrase. It's becoming counterproductive for everyone.

Google hates link builders. And link builders think so little of their craft that they're willing to outsource it to an intern or someone whose primary language isn't their own. How can that person ever get a decent link?


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Link exchanges: The poor man's SEO

Posted by Tom Krazit on 14 July 09

Large Internet companies spend millions on consultants and technology trying to get their sites to rank among the highest results on Google. Everyone else has to rely on the poor man's search-engine optimization: the link exchange.

If you've ever hung up your own shingle on the Web, you've probably gotten an e-mail to this effect at some point: "Dear So-and-so, I believe your site and mine could benefit from exchanging links." We probably get eight to 10 a week in the CNET News general mailbox, mostly from technology-related companies but occasionally from auto-parts suppliers and watch retailers who either have no idea what we do or few moral qualms about spam.

The idea is that if you can coax a link out of a large site like CNET, Google and other search engines will record that link as a vote of confidence in your site's worthiness and improve your ranking in searches for certain topics, thereby boosting traffic to your site. The technique is quite old, dating back even before Google and its PageRank system emerged as the Web's dominant search engine.

But does it still work? And at what point do two or three sites struggling to get off the ground veer off the road from mutual assistance to a full-blown spam operation designed to game the system?

Evan Duffield, for one, thinks it still works. He contacted us trying to get CNET to exchange links with, a site he has launched to promote stock-trading tools for day traders, and says he has been able to slowly build up the PageRank of another site he owns using techniques that don't run afoul of Google's Webmaster guidelines.

"It's kind of a vicious circle," he said. "To start a new business you need PageRank, but to get PageRank you need links to your service. You have to get the ball rolling."

PageRank is the currency of the Web. Google's novel approach to site indexing way back when was to evaluate the worthiness of a site based on how many other sites were linking to it, also taking into account the worthiness of the sites passing along the links. This meant, and still does mean, that a link from a site with a high PageRank counts for way more than a link from a site with low PageRank.

But how do you get a link from one of those sites? Google's official advice: "The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community." That, of course, sounds like something your mother would say.

In a Web as vast as this one, getting attention for a new site, even one with superb content, is a very difficult undertaking. Bloggers can discuss each other's work and help each other build up a following, but if you're selling a product or service it can be much more difficult to climb the ranks of search results for things like "day-trading software" when you're starting from scratch.

So Webmasters like Duffield turn to solicitations for links. Danny Sullivan, who writes about search-engine optimization for Search Engine Land, says "if you're a new site, absolutely you want to be doing link building. But you need to be doing that in a smart fashion."

Duffield says he's very careful to only solicit links from sites that are related to his product: his pitch for exchanging links that somehow wound up at our doorstep was addressed to, a mailing list for hobbyists trying to tackle the difficult chore of building a computer AI system for the ancient game of go.

That was a mistake, he said; the result of prematurely hitting send on an e-mail template. Duffield compiles his targets by searching for sites that are related to finance and stock trading, and attempts to contact a general e-mail address to pass along his site's information and offer a link exchange.

"It's not about the actual links so much as it is optimizing search queries," Duffield said. "When I figure out a query I want from Google, I can see the top three positions have this much page rank and this many positions, and try to beat that out."

As long as people like Duffield are exchanging links without offering payment, or crossing obvious lines such as breaking captchas and posting spam links in guestbooks or comment forums, they're following the spirit of Google's Webmaster guidelines.

"Where it tends to get into tricky issues is where people are doing it primarily for payment," Sullivan said. "Search engines would see links as votes. Google does not like that people would simply be buying links to do better.

While paid links are clearly off-limits, Google appears to ban link exchanges in general, saying it does not allow "excessive link exchanging" but failing to define exactly what constitutes "excessive." Other practices that are verboten include links to "bad neighborhoods" on the Web and complicated networks of several Web sites with little content but pages and pages of links amongst themselves that Google can usually identify.

For the most part, however, the practice is rampant enough that only the most egregious violations get snagged. "If you start thinking too much about not getting caught, you're probably doing things you shouldn't be doing," Sullivan said.

In an era where SEO is a budding industry unto itself, link exchanges are perhaps the most basic approach. Far below the realm of those dithering over Google's search index are those like Duffield trying to make something out of literally nothing.

While he needs to build PageRank equity to get started, Duffield acknowledges that at a certain point that Google is right: a site will live or die on its content. Link exchanges only work to get one's name out there: the real boost needed to turn a Web site into a business comes when real people start discussing and linking to a service on blogs, message forums, and social-networking sites.

That's when your search ranking (and therefore traffic) really starts to grow, he said. "If you can make Google see that something is being talked about all over the Internet, what choice do they have?"


Should You Still Use Nofollow?

Posted by Eric Enge on 14 July 2009

From: searchenginewatch

Recent changes in the processing of the nofollow attribute have caused consternation and concern among many publishers. Let's talk about what has happened, and how you should adapt your SEO strategy accordingly.

A Little History

PageRank sculpting has been a hot topic since 2007. This was the idea that you could control, at a granular level, the flow of link juice in your Web site through the use of the nofollow attribute. The concept can be illustrated by this chart:

Nofollow Attribute 2007

In our example, Link 1 has the nofollow attribute on the link, and Link 2 and Link 3 don't. Google's stated position in 2007 (you can see it detailed here and here) was that this would result in Link 1 not passing (or consuming) any PageRank, and that PageRank getting redistributed through the other links in the page.

This is represented in our diagram by the percentage figures shown after the arrow. Link 1 passes no link juice, and links 2 and 3 pass half the passable link juice of the page each.

This touched off an era where many SEOs recommended PageRank sculpting, and lots of sites did it. Data pulled from Linkscape in March 2009 indicated that 3 percent of the links on the Web were nofollowed.

How This All Changed

At SMX Advanced 2009, Matt Cutts made statements about how this had been changed, and which he then clarified in his June 15 "PageRank Sculpting" post. Basically, Google's position appears to be that this is the impact of using nofollow on selected links:

Nofollow Attribute 2009

In this revised world, Link 1 still doesn't pass link juice, but the link juice it chooses not to pass is simply discarded. The juice passed through Links 2 and 3 isn't affected by whether you nofollow Link 1.

Impact of the Change

Based on this, it may make sense to remove any onsite nofollows you have. For example, if you nofollow all the links to your "About Us" page, the link juice in those links is discarded. If you let the links pass juice, your About Us page will be able to pass some of that juice back into the site through the links contained on it.

If you want to be cautious about this, carefully check out the results of removing the nofollows. Monitoring the impact of every SEO change you make is always a good idea.

While I believe that Google is serious about their new stance, theory (or position) and practice don't always align in the world of search. Also, while Google announced a new policy, Yahoo and Microsoft haven't commented on this.

More aggressive publishers will continue to sculpt by using older techniques for it. For example, you can use JavaScript that encodes the link so it isn't recognizable as a link by the search engines. Done aggressively, this will behave much the same way that nofollow did back in 2007 (because the search engine won't recognize the link as a link so no link juice is wasted on it).

This is pretty aggressive stuff though. It's a bit like hanging a flag on your site and saying "I am aggressively optimizing for search engines." It might fit well for smaller sites that believe their overall visibility is low (I still wouldn't recommend it for those sites), but sites that have a fair amount of public visibility should stay away from it.

Instead, use the natural link structure of your site to flow link juice (and your site visitors) where you want them to go. Creating the best possible user experience on your site is the best way for you to spend your time, as it will also make your site more attractive to potential linkers.