Showing posts with label seo tools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seo tools. 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: