Showing posts with label link building. Show all posts
Showing posts with label link building. Show all posts

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Do We Need Links & Matter ?

Whenever I'm asked about what I do for a living, I say something like this: "you know those pieces of text that you can click on inside of a webpage, the ones that take you somewhere else? I place those."
Blank stare. Sometimes they respond with, "OK, but why?" That's a damn good question. The "why" behind the existence of links has been a bit more absent than it should be, especially for people who are new to the field.

Why Do Links Matter?

Hyperlinks were the main method of building the Internet and connecting sites through HTML, allowing people and bots to move around and find what they needed. They were like any other citations, methods of getting additional information by going somewhere else.

Contrary to popular belief, Al Gore didn't invent the hyperlink. The term itself was first used in the 1960s, before most of you were born.

In 1998 there was the first on-paper mention of PageRank, just before Larry Page and Sergei Brin actually founded Google. The theory behind PageRank became part of the basis of the Google algorithm, and continues to be so today.

To greatly simplify the concept, PageRank is a popularity contest wherein the pages with the most support (via inbound links) behind them should be viewed as the most important ones. You could increase a page's importance simply by building as many links as possible to it.

As anyone who deals with SEO knows though, it's a lot trickier than that.

Not All Links Are of Equal Importance

A link from the homepage of a powerful site like the BBC will be of a higher quality than a link from the links page of your high school's blog.

If a competitor that ranked above you in the SERPs had 100 more links than you, you couldn't just go grab 101 links and rank above him. Some links are simply more valuable than others, particularly links from authoritative sites (like respected news sites) and links from .edu and .gov domains.
Like every other SEO tactic, this was abused, differing opinions abounded, and everyone tried to nail down the exact science of it.

In 2005, the nofollow link attribute came along and ruined all our fun. No longer could we throw tons of links at sites in order to make them rank. That can still work as you'll see at times, but quick wins with links aren't as plentiful as they were pre-nofollow.

In 2009, PageRank was removed from Google's Webmaster Tools, mainly due to the fact that people didn't really understand that the number they saw wasn't a true representation of their sites's importance (and was updated about as frequently as your grandma's hairstyle.)

Note: there have been some updates to the original PageRank patent, which Bill Slawski covers in detail here.

The PrePageRank World

What did we do before we had that pesky little toolbar indicator? Without that one commonly misunderstood metric to constantly monitor and agonize about, we used rankings and traffic as an indicator of our performance.
We could also rank a site without links, just by keyword stuffing (cramming keywords into my tags and content to the extent that 50 percent of my words were that exact keyword, for example) and cloaking (figuring out how to send search engine spiders to one place where I keyword-stuffed while showing users a nice, pretty page). Those were the good old days when you could get a link on a site and not get cussed out by your client because they wanted all PR 4s and up and you, stupidly, got a link on a new but very relevant and well-trafficked PR 0 site.
We still knew that links were important. They just didn't make us crazy.
Link exchanges were very big. Having a page just devoted to outgoing links was huge. It was a softer, gentler time when link building as we know it today was innocent. The only people that I knew who built links were generalist SEOs, and looking back now, it's easy to see that we did it badly by today's standards.

Actual PageRank

There's a point that gets lost a lot, one that makes it obvious that actual PageRank and visible PageRank are two very different things.

The PageRank that we can see represented in the bar, a number, from a PageRank checker, etc., is updated infrequently and isn't the actual PageRank that Google assigns to your site. The actual PageRank calculation, if shown here, would make all of our heads spin. Let's just say that it's a lot more complicated than a number from 0 to 10.

Toolbar PageRank

This is what you do see (and sometimes confuse with actual PageRank.) Toolbar PageRank is one of many factors in how your site will rank but its importance is way overblown and oversimplified. You will see sites with a Toolbar PageRank of 1 outranking sites with a Toolbar PageRank of 5, due to various other considerations (like social signals, for example.)

PageRank Sculpting and Link Juice

Now here is where things get particularly interesting to me. Pages have their own specific PageRank (both actual and toolbar) and through linking elsewhere, they can send link juice in the same way that they receive it.

If a page has 10 outgoing links on it and none are nofollowed, each page linked to should receive one-tenth of that page's link juice. If five links are nofollowed and five are not, each of those five followed links should receive 20 percent of that page's link juice and the five nofollowed links should receive none of it.

Due to this idea, people began to experiment with manipulation. (Can you imagine SEOs manipulating anything?) We nofollowed certain links that went to other site pages, ones that weren't quite as important as the others but ones that we did link to in the navigation. That seemed OK.

Later, like with almost everything else, it got complicated. I won't bore you with the details here. Suffice it to say it's not a widely recommended practice anymore. Some still do it, some don't, but controlling link juice didn't work as we hoped it would. You'd think we would all learn our lessons but no, no we never do.

So Why Do Links Matter Today?

Oddly enough, they matter for the same reasons that they have always mattered: they send traffic by making connections and yes, they are still a large part of ranking. I don't see that changing any time soon, even though many people (and myself) think that certain other factors like social signals are becoming important.
A good link will send you nice link juice and help to boost your rankings so that you'll get more traffic and hopefully more conversions. A great link will do the same thing but it will send you traffic on its own.

Some links probably do absolutely nothing positive. You can get a link on a high-profile site and no one will ever click on it. You can receive referring traffic from a footer link on the crappiest site you've ever seen. You can get a rankings boost from both of those links. It's like magic.

Then there's the concept of authority. Links from other sites will lend credibility and authority to your site, ideally, through using you as an example. When a site links to you, the anchor text is viewed as an indicator of what your site is about.

Like the rest of this, that is no longer a perfect system. Theoretically, the keywords that a site links to you with should boost your authority for that topic.

If CNN linked to your site with an anchor of "great place to buy a computer" then your site would probably be viewed as an actual great place to buy a computer, and you'd probably rank higher for that phrase than if you'd gotten that link from your mom's local birdwatching site. However, the birdwatching site would still help you rank for a great place to buy a computer, but since it's most likely not as authoritative as CNN, to actually get a noticeable rankings boost, you'd need to get that link and more of the same for it to make a difference.

CNN has authority signals, which engines can take into account: people link to it, they reference it on Twitter and Facebook, they comment on stories, they comment on videos, the traffic is probably truly amazing, and the brand itself is one that most people recognize. One link from a site like that is much, much more powerful than more links from sites that have no social traction or online footprint.

Here is What I Truly Believe

The importance of links may lessen a bit, but it won't go away completely. The web was built on links. You can rank well without them of course (think breaking news stories or blog posts that get loads of attention on the first few days), but depending upon what shows up in a search engine's results is just as bad an idea as depending upon any one route into your site.
Written By: Julie Joyce Source:

Friday, April 13, 2012

7 New Key Points to Think About SEO & Converged Social Media Metrics

The costs related to a specific actions and final acquisition has always been, and always will be, the ultimate metric and goal for any marketer. However, how we get to that final acquisition metric and how we optimize our search engine optimization (SEO) and social media efforts has changed significantly.
As we adapt to the convergence of SEO, social, content, and digital media channels there has never been a better time to think about new ways to measure paths to acquisition and utilize the vast amounts of technology, analytical tools and platforms that help us measure the value of media that is "earned from consumers."

What follows are some insights and straightforward tips from my recent visit to SES New York and some food for thought as to new ways to look at measuring, not just SEO, but converged, earned, and business related metrics.

1. Match Value to Traditional SEO Metrics

While ensuring that you measure traffic from the search engines – how many pages receive visits from these search engines, and how many keywords are sending traffic to site – also try to match value to these metrics.
For example, what is the size of the actual SEO opportunity and how much traffic and conversion comes from specific landing pages? How many keywords are under management and what is the specific value, cost and return, of specific keywords?


2. Distinguish Between Reactive vs. Proactive Metrics

Sometimes it's too easy to get caught in a battle or debate with client about metrics. We all know this happens far too much, right? The reality as to why this happens it due to that fact that people often report binary metrics based on reaction to:
  • A loss of rankings.
  • Reduction in traffic levels.
  • Reductions in actions.
  • Loss of business, lower conversions, and so forth.
Now these are all essential metrics to the success of any online campaign. However, simply reporting these metrics can put you in a constant cycle of debate.
Looking and reporting proactive metrics actual helps you in this case by providing the clients with something new and also putting any reactive metrics into perspective. Such metrics to focus on are:
  • Rankings in relation to competition.
  • Rankings in relation to content and news and external/industry statistics.
  • Influencer based metrics and future value.
  • Social value and engagement.
  • Attribution based metrics (more on this later).
  • Action based metrics that over time influence rankings.
You can do this by utilizing a combination of:
  • Advanced analytics (Google and Bing Webmaster Tools and analytics).
  • SEO tools (Majestic, Moz, Screaming Frog).
  • Enterprise SEO and social media technologies (later in this post).

3. Place a Value & Forecast SEO Metrics – Think Beyond Just Ranking Position

SEO is finally becoming more measurable, and by tracking the whole picture and integrating with site analytics measuring ROI has become a whole lot easier. Quantifying the value of an SEO (just like you would with PPC) project prior to its start allows clients to invest more based on these forecasts.
Always remember the following:
  • Rankings mean nothing unless you put a value to them.
  • To place a value on SEO use organic traffic data and PPC keyword data to project spend – just like you would PPC.
  • Make sure you use this data to benchmark where you or your client are is in relation to the competition.
current-seo-value-optimized-best-caseImage credit: BrightEdge

Being able to see where you're winning and losing becomes a whole new SEO metric in itself

4. Embrace Social Media Metrics & Objectives

Eighty-four percent of companies surveyed in a recent Facebook survey believe that social signals will be more important to SEO in 2012. The convergence of SEO and social media tactics has meant that social media metrics are becoming just as important as traditional SEO metrics.
It is now vital to measure "beyond the Like" and understand the true value of social media interactions.
As BrightEdge CEO, Jim Yu, mentioned in his panel presentation, the increased importance of social signals (e.g., Google Search Plus Your World) means it is now essential to look at how, when, and why social signals (tweets, Likes, +1’s, and Pins) influence rankings and position. Creating a Google+ page, adding social plugins (maximize engagement), interlinking deep pages with social media properties, and SEO’ing your social pages are all vital steps in optimizing for the social web and graph.
Lee Odden, Author & CEO of TopRank, makes a great point on matching KPI’s to business values.
"One important distinction to make with measuring the integrated SEO and social media efforts is the difference between KPIs and business outcomes," Odden said. "I talk about this in Optimize where KPIs are defined as the behaviors that often lead to revenue oriented outcomes. KPIS like links, rankings and search traffic as well as likes, fans, friends, followers, network size, rate of growth and such are all useful measures of progress that can lead to business outcomes."
Odden also makes an interesting point on the differences between sales and social impact.
“Obviously sales and new customers are the most often sought after outcomes but so are the social impact on increased orders, order volume and frequency,” Odden said.

Image credit: Econsultancy

"Whatever brands can do facilitate productive connections between prospects or consumers and useful brand content, the more meaningful the engagement," Odden said. "And in my experience, an engaged community is more likely to be a profitable community."

5. Utilize the Right Tools & Technologies That Get You The Right Metrics

From measuring site stats, links, value, and social media influence the development many tools and technology platforms are allowing us to segment different types of metrics and build insights and value from a numerous of different sources.

Utilizing these types of seo and social media technologies – see this article on 45 SEO and Social Media Tools for examples – helps you collaborate much more closely with clients and agencies and…

6. Report The Right Metrics to The Right Person

Metrics are pretty useless you are reporting the right metrics to the relevant people, in the relevant format and at the relevant time. There is no set formula as to how you report metrics to an agency or a client as every company has a different organization structure, political structure, and level of knowledge.
Beyond marketing and sales objectives, search and social media marketing programs can affect increases in media coverage, attracting new employees and serving as a facilitator for better online customer service. That means more than links and likes.
For Odden, this means "performance based measurements in alignment with objectives like monitoring social conversations for customer service opportunities and overlaying those trends on social / search referrals to company knowledgebase and FAQ content. Is social engagement and optimized customer service content attracting more visits to FAQ and knowledge-base pages for example? What impact does such optimized content have on brand sentiment within social channels over time?”
Depending upon your objective you can start to build and utilize dashboards and widgets to begin to segment how and to whom you report certain metrics through an organizational structure. Once you have done this you can gain ‘buy-in’ from individuals in specific roles whilst then collaborating and sharing metrics easily across various business functions.
The end result is a client that fully understands the metrics relevant to them and their role.
Ciaran Norris, director of Emerging Media, Mindshare Global, makes a great point to help keep us in check.
“What’s changed in the market is that clients and agencies were use to the simple, precise nature of search (CPC etc) but have now had to adapt to the sometimes less definitive world of social,” Norris said. “There should be different metrics used to measure the effects of different platforms. The ultimate metric should be sales”.


7. Attribute Credit and Admit That You’re a Marketer

Someone once said “It’s not SEO, it’s Marketing”. The scope of SEO has changed dramatically over recent months due to its convergence with social and content-based media.
It's only natural (pardon the pun) that now we have more effective ways of measuring success that we should think like a holistic marketer. SEO has long had an issue with its PPC peer about attribution and credit. Advancements in analytics, tools, and technology highlighted above now pave way for SEO to monetize its value while also showing how its assists in the conversion process.
Kevin Gibbons wrote a great post showing how you can treat SEO forecasting like PPC and help to attribute accordingly.
Yes, there are always going to be challenges to this such as local search (Panda) and softer metrics that muddy the waters and are hard to measure (brand metrics) but the development and rise of API’s can help you work your way to building metrics to get you nearer your goals and show how you add value in the conversion chain.


As we move to a converged media world we are now presented with a number of ways to attract new connections between brand and consumer. This is turn creates a number of different ways to measure interactions and value by looking at metrics in a new light.
Utilizing the right technology and reporting the relevant metric from the relevant channel to the relevant person at the relevant time is the best way to show value and get the increase in spend that you deserve.
Converged SEO Metrics

"The only metrics that really matter are sales (or the equivalent) and the cost of driving those," Norris said. "Anything else is just dressing."

Well, what we have today is a whole new way of dressing, measuring and tracking how SEO and it’s converged media partners can become more accountable in that sales process.
Written By: Andy Betts Source:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

7 Types of Content to Get Traffic, Links and Social Exposure

I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently working with clients on their content strategies for 2012.  Its something I’ve been keen to evangelise and get them to invest resource into, some clients have been harder than others to convince!  I can see why its sometimes a hard thing to buy into, but I firmly believe that having a solid content strategy in place is essential for the majority of sites we work with.  Tom wrote this post on content marketing yesterday which I’d urge you to go and read.

Why companies struggle with content marketing

Two of the common problems that many companies have with content production are -
  • Resource to create content – many do not have time or specialist writers in-house
  • They lack ideas of what content they can create or their industry is “boring”
There are more, but these are probably the consistent ones that I hear.
I am hoping that the rest of this post helps solve these problems.  I’ve given the following examples for a few reasons -
  • Most of them can be used across most industries – boring or not
  • They don’t all require hours and hours of resource to get done
  • They will help you get traffic or links or both

Getting Inspiration

Before diving into examples, I wanted to give some pointers and tools for how to get inspiration for your clients content. It can be difficult at times, particularly if you have a client in an industry that doesn’t seem particularly interesting at first glance.
Brainstorming internally and with the client
First step should be a bit of a no brainer. But remember some key points to running a good brainstorm session and don’t overlook the opportunity to brainstorm with your client if that is an option. This can have lots of advantages, one of which being that the client can veto or approve edgy ideas straight away. So the outcome will be a list of ideas which you know you can get sign off for which makes the time you send researching more focused.
Non-competitor analysis
You all know to look at what competitors are doing, again thats a no brainer. But make sure you look outside your vertical too and see what cool stuff other people are doing, sometimes you’ll come across an idea that can be easily applied to your own niche or a concept that can be applied to your own content.  For example, with the right data, could you become the Ok Cupid of your industry?
I’ve mentioned this before but its worth mentioning again. I love Spezify. If you are ever in a jam and have a bit of brain freeze, plug a keyword or two into it and leave it for a few minutes. It will go off and aggregate loads of tweets, images and all sorts of other results to give you an idea of what is being talked about right now.
For some extra fun, plug a friend or colleagues name into it and see what it finds :)
So what here we go with seven types of content you can produce for traffic and link building.

Video Content

This is something which is getting bigger and bigger within Google SERPs at the moment and I think that websites that get on board with this now can dominate in the future. For me, there are two ways you can leverage video content to help your website.
As a link building tool – I’ve written before about getting links using your YouTube videos which is something I’d highly recommend. The other way you can leverage videos is to create your own and use them as link bait – but this is hard. If you have the resources, then go for it and create your own videos.  Just take a look at Zappos who have over 50,000 product videos!
This leads me onto the second way you can leverage video content.
To increase click-throughs from SERPs - Take a look at this result from Zappos:
This puts them a step ahead (see what I did there) of their competitors.  If they can get to a point where their product pages are ranking well and have these snippets showing, then they will most likely see an increase in click through rate from search results because they stand out so much.
We’ve been doing some testing lately on a client site where we are trying to get a video showing in SERPs which when clicked, go straight to the client site rather than somewhere like Vimeo or YouTube.  So far its been working well and I’d recommend using something like Wistia to help you with this.


I’ll say it, I don’t really like them that much.  The reason being that I see so many terrible ones that can’t even be classed as infographics.  I also think there are sometimes easier and more efficient ways to get links.  That being said, they can (and do) get links.  If you have the time and resource to do them well, then infographics can be a good way of getting links.
I’ve stolen a few principles from Mark which I’m going to put here.  Really, infographics should do the following if they are to be successful -
  • Answer a question or solve someones problem
  • Be based on real data that can be backed up
  • Make data or facts easier to digest than written content
  • Show the user something they didn’t already know
If you do have a good infographic to promote, there are loads of sites out there which are dedicated to just infographics, I published a list here of the ones which I know of.
I know what some of you are thinking, infographics are mega expensive to produce.  Yes they can be, but they do not have to be.  Take a look at this one which Mark did on his personal site which attracted 115 linking root domains.  All he used was a camera and some nice cake mix!

Interactive Content

This excites me a lot more than static infographics.  For me, the companies who find a way of bridging the gap between their product and interactive content will win in the long term.  Lets take a look at an example.
I love this World Cup planner by Marca.  Imagine if you were a retailer of tickets for the World Cup and you produced this.  Imagine you could click through and purchase tickets for the game of your choice, but rather than the standard way of finding them, you use this interactive selector?
This is a perfect use of interactive content because it attracts people to your website for being genuinely useful, but it doesn’t end there, you can convert these people into buyers with the right integration and calls to action.
The next step of link building and content marketing is the integration of this interactive content onto product and category pages – solving the age old problem of getting links to ecommerce pages.  Do this and you’ll win the internet – its hard though!

Q&A Content

If you are tight on budget, this can be a great one to use.  Chances are that whatever product or service you sell, you get common questions about it.  If you have email support staff, they probably have standard copy and paste answers that go into emails – is that content on your website and indexable?  If not, get it on there.
The beauty of this type of content is that it has the ability to attract traffic as well as links, in particular in technical fields.  Also, it is obvious that Google are moving towards becoming a better place to get direct answers to questions, searches such as this prove it -
The trend for users searching using a question rather than a keyword is growing too, look at the insight data for “how can” and “does the” -
If you can position yourself as a site where you provide direct answers, you will not only get good long tail traffic, but you will also move towards becoming an authority in your field.
Make sure you take a look at the Wordtracker Question Tool which can give you some ideas of what people ask related to your keywords.  Also look at your keyword data in Google Analytics and filter for keywords which include things like “how” “what” and “can” etc.
Bonus for ecommerce sites – if you can tie Q&A content into your product pages, you have a massively scalable way of getting good quality, relevant content onto your product pages.  Here is an example of how Jessops are doing this -
I don’t believe this content is currently crawlable, but if it were, long tail traffic would most likely increase.

User Generated Content

You’ve all read about customer reviews as user generated content, but what about other forms of content such as images or videos?  Amazon have been doing this for a long time now but smaller retailers are doing this too, even this retailer that sells garden sheds -
You may need to add an incentive to get customers to go to the effort of this, but even if its just a 10% off voucher, some will do it and you have another sale.
Pro tip – make sure you are asking these customers if they have a blog, Facebook or Twitter accounts.  If they do, send them appropriate calls to action to get them to share the images once they are live on your site.

Guest Blogging

I bet most of us have spent time guest blogging to get links for clients, but how many of you have invited guest bloggers onto your blog to write for you?  It has two main advantages -
  • Allows you to get good content if your own resource or time is short
  • The writers will naturally share it and link to their article
You will need to dedicate some time to quality control, but this will not be anywhere near as much as you writing the content yourself.
Taking things a step further, you can also use a few principles of gamification to motivate your guest bloggers.  For example you can reward bloggers who get the most traffic, most links or social shares with a random prize.  The key is to make this reward publicly visible and be super transparent about how bloggers can win these prizes.


Don’t dismiss this one.  If you can get creative enough, this can not only be a content win but also a link building one.
If you can find a way of coming up with a competition which involves people producing content in order to win, you are onto a winner.  Here is an example of this on PostGrad which involved getting entrants to visualise a piece of data.  The best visualisation won the competition and was featured on the blog.  This not only got links but provided great content for their site -
You can be pretty flexible on the type of content you ask for -
  • Written content such as a blog post
  • Images – e.g. baiting photographers for their best photos
  • Videos – e.g. record a video of yourself singing a song
Some thought it needed to make sure the barrier to entry is low but the quality of the output is high, but this is definitely possible across most industries.
To wrap up, I know that producing great content is not easy.  But you need to at least make a start on the path to getting it right, online brands who are not investing in content are going to get left behind.
Written By: Paddy Moogan Source: