Building Links With Content Refresh

I enjoy footprints, advanced operators, and link building with content.  I like the personalized, conversational nature of the link building I do.  Though not fast, it’s fun and very impactful. It’s like a cannon versus an AK47.

Naturally I was drawn to broken link building.  Garret French’s ridiculously cool Broken Link Building tool is a great resource.  While some are great at this, my success rate is unfortunately low with this tactic.  My assumption is that the resources are usually so old (hence, the link breaks because it’s abandoned) that the webmaster doesn’t even care that it’s broken.  Thus, no response from the webmaster following my inquiries.

But they do seem to respond more often when they have wrong information on their site.

I’ve always been able to use the Broken Link Building tool to get content ideas and find good blogs, but thought, “instead of fixing the link by suggesting my own content, why not produce content that fixes a bloggers on-page content.”

Time Is The Enemy Of Information

time expiredIn time, things become outdated.  Data refreshes.  Ideas expire.  Studies prove other studies wrong.  Trends, interests, and feelings change.  The problem with the web is that you’re hard-pressed to keep your website 100% current.  How often have you searched for the answer to a question to find a 4 year old, out-dated article?  Google does a poor job with QDF, and simply needs help with detecting the latest, most accurate information.

That’s where this tactic kicks in.

Each of my clients (or past employers) is an expert in something.  Once I figure out what these strengths are, and identify who can write the content, I search for sites that have wrong information.

Here’s a couple opportunities I was able to “refresh” with this tactic:

  • 5 great iOS apps that help you manage your time (updated a 4 year old article with something much current.  2 of the apps were not even in the App Store anymore).
  • Fracking does not cause groundwater contamination (one site had this claim, where an article we produced had proof of Marcellus Shale region contamination from fracking results).

Each new article we placed had a link to our site either in the byline or in the body itself. This tactic works great with a content strategy.  Throw the results into Buzzstream and you’re on your way.

Introducing The Outdated Content Finder

I like this idea so much I wanted a tool that could quickly find these opportunities.  I asked Mike Angstadt, a great Philadelphia developer and SEO,  if he thought he could help me build it.  In 24 hours, the Outdated Content Finder was born.  Mike is the man, so hit him up on Twitter.

Give it a spin.  Click the logo below:

It’s still in beta, and will grow to include more features.  I’d love your feedback in the comments below.

I’m Not Defending SEO

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Neil Maycock (http://www.optimize-yorkshire.com/) looped me into a blog post called “Asking Bloggers To Break The Law” on Mummy Barrow.

In summary, it was a well-deserved, opinionated rhapsody on one SEO link building tactic. SEOs only need to read an excerpt from a link builder, which the author published, to get the gist of this article:

“Unfortunately we have had new guidelines introduced that state we can’t place any more articles that are labelled as sponsored as they highlight the link has been paid for. Not great in the eyes of Google.

If that’s the case that you definitely have to state ‘sponsored’, then I won’t be able to go ahead I’m afraid.

I don’t suppose offering you a bit more money would sway the decision would it?”

Ouch.

As you can imagine, this sparked debate in SEO on what is, and what should never be.

I’m a realist. Some parts of SEO (as an industry) are eccentric. It always was, it probably always will be. We were born in forums, so conversations can get kind of bizarre, off-topic, chatty, etc. But, as long as there are SEOs who define search optimization as motions to improve rankings, there will be tacticians like this, and their defenders. The problem for SEOs, who define search optimization as a more holistic marketing channel, is this grants a negative context by which they don’t want to be known by. The antics continue online, and the machine starts spinning again.

But negative or not, it’s one half of what SEO is. Other SEOs, and Google, may want to change that. I think it’s a lost cause. It’s complete chaos. Sometimes we ourselves fall into our own vortex. Sometimes we drink our own (and each other’s) Kool-Aid. Some of the “personalities” we promote and the content we praise makes it feel more like a popularity contest. Sometimes we act less than classy. Alternatively, sometimes we fight each other. We trash what the other side of SEO does. The whole things starts to feel like playground fights.

It’s like republicans vs. democrats. One party can tell another group (of any political persuasion) what code they should live by, but banking on a sweeping change is a fool’s bet. Like anyone, I’d love to convince all our industry peers to see it my way (don’t try to lie and manipulate a blogger, don’t be a lazy link builder, etc.), but I don’t waste the bandwidth on the unachievable. Instead, I’d rather focus on sending the message I stand by, to the clients I pitch, the people who read my stuff, and the people I meet at networking events. I fully acknowledge what we REALLY are. It helps me define what I am.

I’m Bill. I do online marketing and strategy. The way I go about it, SEO is a big fiber in the whole canvas I create on.

As an aside, I find myself more and more distancing from SEO as a label in conversations, and instead embracing all of online marketing. When people ask me what I do, I used to say “SEO,” now I’m noticing I don’t. It’s not because of any negative industry connotation, but because I feel like I’m expanding into something more. The acronym isn’t the big picture anymore. I don’t agree with those who try to pack a multi-channel definition into such this three-letter word.

My Name Is SEOIt started a year ago. At Mozcon 2012, there were a couple presentations about “SEO needs to grow up”. We need to get more into digital PR, content marketing, etc. I completely disagreed (it took a few weeks to sink in). If you want to get more into those channels – and why not, it’s an asset – I think you stop labeling everything as SEO, and start considering yourself bigger than SEO. Should an SEO be an expert at usability, graphic design, content marketing, analytics, and social media? No, you should be an expert in what they do for improvement in SERPs and better conversion rates through search traffic. However, if you want to be an expert in those things, strive to be a digital marketer (or inbound marketer, if that’s what you prefer to call it). SEO doesn’t need blurrier definitions or an obtuse label.

I simply don’t spend time defending, labeling, or being a criticizer of SEO tactics that I personally don’t employ, though I do feel defensive whenever the other side of a story is absent. It’s valueless, and a cheap headline grabber. I don’t pitch or “negative sell” to clients on the scary SEO monsters out there. Instead, I talk about the incredible value SEO and digital marketing can have for a company.

I suggest you stop fighting about SEO definitions; accept what it is, while taking inspiration from its marketing potential, and start branching into other digital marketing channels. I believe that’s the best next step you can make to further your expertise.

Now… read this: Why I’m Quitting SEO by Martin McDonald

How Did I Beat The Duplicate Content Game?

(There have been a few updates to this article at the end; the title of this article has been changed to reflect all the data.  I highly recommend you read the comments as well).

Yesterday I posted an article on quick link wins from Moz’s new Fresh Web Index.  I happened to catch the announcement of the tool and tested it immediately.  I wrote up a quick post about an hour later.  There were comments from Twitter, inbound.org, and my own blog about how fast I produced the article.

So, being that it was quick, I wondered if I had a shot ranking for Fresh Web Index this morning. After all, Google’s all about speed, and QDF now, right?

serp

 

Unfortunately, my domain didn’t make the first page.  But two sites who republished my article did.  My post was the canonical version – Google is supposed to figure that out, right? Especially since my page was indexed before the other two.  Let’s look at this deeper.

I get republished by Business 2 Community.  They hand-pick posts from my feed that might suit their members.  Yahoo is a publishing partner of B2C, so they again publish some of B2C’s posts. If you look at the image above, both those domains are ranking for my article. Authorship didn’t help me here (not that I expected it to), and the links back to my site didn’t clue Google in.  Nor is there a canonical tag in place by B2C or Yahoo.  From the looks of it, I appear to be beaten by sheer domain authority.  Not only that, I appear to have been completely filtered out of the first 100 ranks.

To me, this is Google doing a poor job.

So it got me thinking – what else can I do to signal to Google that my original post should be shown in place of one of these re-publishers?  I could ask B2C to remove my posts, citing duplicate content issues, but I like the visibility I get there (and on Yahoo).

The Long Shot

If you look at my single post pages, my template actually removes the time stamp.  It has the date, but not the actual hour the post went live.  Could that be the magic bullet to get Google to value my original post higher?

date stamp

As of 10:20am (of day 2), I have coded the time stamp into my WordPress single-post template. Again, I think this is a long shot.  Because it’s easily faked, would Google actually factor that?

date stamp

Now we wait to see if Google actually pays attention to the posted time.  I’m also going to “fetch as google” and submit to the index again, since some think that might work as an old-school ping.  Can’t hurt.

Day 2 

Success.  Google decided to list me on the first page today (a fresh cache is listed for today, March 8th), right under a great post that came out by Rhea at Outspoken Media. The Yahoo listing still exists, but the blended News listing (Business 2 Community) has dropped.

Updated SERPs

So other than adding the time stamp (my long shot), what changed?

Well, let’s check FWE to start.  According to the tool, I got two new linking root domains (aside from the Yahoo and B2C) link.  One is from the result right above me, the strong Outspoken Media. Clearly as I sing FWE’s praises, I know it can’t catch all the links out there. There may be more.  Additionally, Yahoo and B2C probably received links too (at this time, it’s still too soon to see in OSE, Majestic or ahrefs).

Second, since the news vertical dropped off, it could have specifically been my barrier to entry. While that algorithm runs differently to Google’s general search algorithm, I could understand where an IFTTT type of scenario occurred.  By rule, possibly Google says, “if three of the same post appears on a page, then kill the least authoritative.”  If the freshness of the news vertical times out, maybe my site is granted it’s appropriate return.  This still doesn’t speak highly of Google’s internal canonicalization abilities.

So What’s My Best Guess?

Correlation doesn’t equal causation, so I have to go with my gut until I can get more information. Currently I suspect the answer lies in one of the above three explanations.

I’m publishing this post now, but expect to come back to it as I think a little more through it. Would love to see your thoughts in the comments!

Update 3/28/2013: Well, it’s been about a month, and my page no longer ranks for the term. The Yahoo duplicate content listing still does (on the first page as of this writing).  It looks like the QDF and any internal canonicalization Google may do has worn off.  Some of the web pages now dominating are strong, unique pieces.  Some are low quality.

Quite disappointing. FAIL… and updated the title of this post accordingly :(

At the very least, hopefully this post is useful for someone in the same situation to understand more about how Google is currently processing through this issue.  I urge you to read the comments, as more information is contained there.

Update 11/17/2013: Much time has passed.  I’ve been noticing that duplicate content issues have seemed less and less dangerous for some of my clients.  In the past couple months I saw Google start getting it right for two clients in particular, who struggled with some of the same issues I noted above.

I remembered this post and decided to do the query again.  Now the duplicate pages are completely out of the index, and my URL is the first (and only ranking) piece.  It came back.  I’m quite pleased, actually.

It looks like Google may have gotten its act together a bit more in the recent months.

Once again, I updated the title of this post accordingly :)

Getting Low Hanging Links Using Fresh Web Explorer

Today SEOmoz announced a new tool today – Fresh Web Explorer (in beta, available to Pro accounts).

It’s fast. It’s big. It’s sexy. It’s simple. It tracks links and mentions in aggregate, and so far, has proven to be faster than Google Alerts and Topsy. This is especially cool for SEOs banking on co-occurrence and citations in the future of ranking. Plus, it has a feed authority feature (in the vein of the defunct AlertRank) which could be pretty useful for many.

Example 1:

It provides a legend of search operators, most we can guess if we are fans of the operators that work in Google. Quotes, minus signs, “OR” – they work great. I picked a few terms that I know gets used in conjunction with my blog:

  • bill sebald
  • greenlaneseo
  • greenlane.wpengine.com
  • green lane seo

I have the option to input one at a time, or both in a string like “bill sebald” OR “greenlaneseo” OR “greenlane.wpengine.com” OR “green lane seo,” depending on whether I want an aggregate or comparison view. I can also scan web mentions as far back as “last four weeks.”


Untitled-1

Not only did I find a post that linked to my site just today (this tool is fast!), but I also found a page that mentioned me but didn’t link. I’ll be emailing him shortly to see if we can’t turn that co-occurrence into a link.

Protip – This tool also lets you export, which after a little tweaking of the CSV, makes for a juicy import into Buzzstream for even better link management.

Example 2:

I’m usually very successful with finding and connecting my good content with relevant posts – a reason I love the broken link building tactics. I recently wrote a review for a Visual Link Explorer from Cognitive SEO. I saw State of Search did a write-up on the tool within the hour my post came out. I wrote to them and asked if they’d like to link to my review as more context for their readers. Unfortunately there was no response (hey, it happens to the best of us), but this tool makes the success of that tactic even more possible.

I entered “Visual Link Explorer” into the tool, and had a couple nice hits. I could easily contact all of these sites with my review, and try to negotiate a link. Think about the varieties of keywords you could enter here to find timely posts and content that is still within the webmaster’s attention span. I’ve always found it’s much easier to get a link on fresh content, than something that’s been long forgotten by the webmaster.

Untitled-21

Is it missing content, links, and citations? Yes. But this is a really great start. These tricks worked great for me in my first hour of playing with it. Would love to hear what you can come up with in the comments.

Oh, and check this out too – Fresh Web Explorer Bookmarklets

Updated 3/21/2013 – On the heels of Fresh Web Explorer, SEOmoz has rolled the concept into Open Site Explorer with “Just Discovered.”  This new tab shows the freshest links discovered by Open Site Explorer by scanning pages recently shared through social media.  It appears pretty accurate, unfortunately some of the links they just discovered for me are year old links on popular websites.

Review Of Visual Link Explorer

Before starting this review, I want to highlight some good prospecting by Razvan Gavrilas. He read a comment I left on a post from Seer about data visualization and Google Fusion Tables, and reached out to me (for those who disagree with me about the power of comments, here’s more proof of value). Razvan emailed me through one of my e-mail accounts, to which I unwisely mistook as being a vendor looking to pitch.  He then hit me on Twitter, to which I unwisely ignored thinking it was also a vendor pitch. He then added me on Linkedin, and finally got my attention. His persistence was impressive, and my ignorance was shameful. I wish I had taken notice sooner, as he was offering me a demo of a really incredible tool. Semi-serendipitously, I offered to do a review, and recommended the company to a few of my friends, one of which was Mike King who also shared it – he has much more amplification than I do. This is more proof that persistent, smart, personal outreach may not be scalable, but it’s still incredibly powerful.  Now, on to the review…

cognitiveSEO

I’m a very-right brained, visual person. I really like data visualization. The critique I left on the Seer blog about Google Fusion Tables was that the functionality wasn’t there to click through and look at specific data points. As an answer to that, the Visual Link Explorer by Cognitive SEO was born. In addition to the Visual Link Explorer, my demo gave me a huge array of link slicing tools, with a lot of filters and features. Unlike many link tools predecessors, this toolset was clearly created to serve the masses who may each be looking to gather different link metrics. On many reports you can filter on link strength, citation flow, count, etc. Also unlike some simpler link reporting and analysis tools, there’s a learning curve here. But like any robust analysis tool (like Omniture for instance), it may take some time to learn this platform. I see this being valued more by the enterprise agencies or in-house SEOs who are held to higher reporting and analysis standards.

I tinkered. I created a campaign and ran an audit on my company’s services domain and another Philadelphia SEO company’s domain. I already had a fair sense of their linking tactics – they have a lot of exact match anchor footer links embedded in clients’ websites. I wanted to see how the two link profiles compared. The campaign wizard prompted me through the initial steps (where I deepened the data pull), and returned massive digital reports within 7 minutes (which the system then saves for immediate review later). That was impressive considering how slice and diced data I had at my fingertips, right in my browser.

So jumping into the new Visual Link Explorer feature specifically, this was really the most impressive of all. A fully navigable, functional, clickable visualization of my link graph:

click image below to open larger in new window

Link Data Visualization

Now here’s the comparison of my SEO competitor, which was just as easy to pull up:

click image below to open larger in new window

Competitor Links

Right off the bat it’s pretty clear that we have two completely different link building, content marketing, and site architecture strategies.  By examining the cluster above, I confirmed what I suspected about my competitor. They have hundreds of links pointing directly to their homepage, with very little variation of exact match anchor text – terms like Philadelphia SEO Company, and Philadelphia SEO. Surprisingly, while Google spanked a lot of this with the Penguin updates, this company still remains strong for these keywords. They rank very well, and this visualization helps me recognize (in seconds) their exemption, and possibly put together a plan to match them at their own game. In my opinion, that’s the biggest value of data visualization – the ability to “snapshot” the landscape quickly, and start driving actionable strategies. With a lot of clients or busy days, this is incredibly important.

Zooming into the interactive interface, I’m able to see links much closer (the scroll wheel on the mouse is heavenly for this).  I’m also able to toggle Link Trust Flow, Domain Trust Flow, Link Citation Flow, Domain Citation Flow, and Link Rating.

click image below to open larger in new window

Closeup of links

I’m able to click through each of the data points to get more information (in the form of a knowledge box), a fix for one of my biggest criticisms of other data visualization tools:

click image below to open larger in new window

closeup

It’s really pretty amazing, and I’m just tapping into it.  My only criticism is (and I shared this with Razvan) is its missing some definitions, and by that I mean, clearly descriptive labels of what all the amazing data means. Novice link builders will get lost in this data, so I’d like to see it maybe cater to them more. This is a powerful tool and should be clearer so all SEO clients can benefit from an empowered (and fully comprehending) SEO service provider.

I would be shocked if this doesn’t quickly become part of an SEOs regular arsenal.

More coming soon – I’m going to create a video tour hopefully soon.  In the meantime, to see some of the other reports from Cognitive SEO’s great tool, here are a few more resources:

http://cognitiveseo.com/blog/2228/visual-link-explorer-visualize-backlinks/

http://www.stateofsearch.com/visualising-the-link-graph

 

Every Marketer Does Not Need To Be Technical

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I read a post on SEOmoz a couple weeks ago.  Every Marketer Should Be Technical.  There were some valuable links, all of which I plan to mine.  But I’ve got a few problems with a (the?) concept in this post.

Now I’m not a fan of labeling everything – growth hacking, technical marketing, SEO 2.0, etc. I only accept “inbound” marketing as a term under protest (it makes me itchy, like it was invented to serve a meta-marketing purpose, not completely unlike Valentine’s Day).  The author of this SEOmoz post had some congruent commentary on the labeling as well, but that notwithstanding, my first objection is with the title.

If this post were called, “Every Marketer May Benefit From Being Technical,” I could more easily get behind that.

If you read my blog (I’m thankful to those who do), you may have read rants on the definition of SEO.  The sun must be in the right alignment with the moon, because it’s a hot topic again (for the moment).  To recap my opinion – there are several definitions for SEO, and they’re all correct depending on what your goals are.  Some parts of SEO are not marketing.  Some of it is.  That said, there’s certainly a role for non-technical marketers in this space.  We still refer to SEO as an art and a science, right?  The “art” part only entered into the picture within the last 6 years or so. That’s clearly the marketing part.

If marketing were a solar system, we are but a single entity sharing off other parts of the system. I studied marketing my whole life, and ultimately landed on Planet SEO.  But I certainly acknowledge the other planets out there.  I had a 6 year career in a major digital agency, where some of the smartest, most influential marketers weren’t technical in the slightest. They didn’t need to be. They found ways to be successful with their toolset.  I refrain to use the word “limited” in terms of their toolset, because it suggests a negative connotation.

I’ve seen other SEOs essentially call out their peers for not knowing how to cache pages on their blog, build an .htaccess, scrape, etc.  I’ve always pushed back on that limited view.  If SEO is partially comprised of marketing, then this isn’t fair.

Does knowing the technical side of digital marketing help you communicate better in the digital space?  The author believes so.  I agree it can help, but it’s not absolute.  I believe the non-technical marketer can have just as valuable role online.  Depending on their role and the campaigns, maybe even more.  Their creativity is not limited by what they can do, which tends to happen to those who have a firm grasp of “their” rules (or, the extent of their technical knowledge).

A few years ago I was part of a social media marketing committee at an agency, where the entire channel was being built around developing a software that could measure the ROI of a social engagement.  At the same time the tool was being built, so were possible strategies we’d offer in our client package.  Ultimately, we drove ourselves into a corner.  We couldn’t come up with anything inspiring, creative, daring, influential, or original.  In this case the “technical marketing” component was an anchor.  I promptly (and proudly) quit that group, which to this day, still hasn’t officially birthed.  The smartest guy in the group – a non-technical marketer – also stepped out.  He continued to build some amazing non-technical digital marketing campaigns for some huge brands, simply by partnering with an analytics group who could do the monitoring and reporting with him.

Just like the old days.  The osteology is new, the heart is the same.

So, with that said, this comment thread particularly interested me.

explorionary

explorionary | December 12th, 2012

“Stated simply, a great technical marketer can devise, develop, launch, and analyze their marketing campaigns without or no assistance.”

In the context of the headline and this definition, would marketers like Ogilvy, Halbert, Vaynerchuk, and Claude Hopkins be considered great or just outliers?

 

gfiorelli1

gfiorelli1 | December 12th, 2012

I think you have answered yourself calling Ogilvy and Co. “Marketers” and not “Technical Marketers”.

But, if you look back to their works, they were also technical marketers in their specific field, which, obviously, wasn’t previewing the importance of Internet.

Possibly an Ogilvy of the XXI century would be also a tech marketer, IMHO.

I liked your comment by the way, because in digging deeper in a possible answer, we could start talking about the competitive advantages an SEO/Web Marketing Agency may have with respect to a traditional Media Agency.

Jamie

Jamie | December 12th, 2012

A great question. In the case of Ogilvy and Halbert, technology wasn’t what it is now when they were coming up, but I’d argue they were still quite technical for their time. Ogilvy helped pioneer television attribution, in addition to being a brilliant and creative mind. And Halbert was a pioneer (if not THE pioneer) of direct response. They were technical enough to devise these methods, perhaps not in the way we think of being ‘technical’ today, but certainly way ahead of their time.

As a side note, Ogilvy is using flash on their site. :-( This makes me think they may still be one of the best at branding, but they’ve got a lot to learn about the web.

My thoughts are more about being a marketer today, than in the 20th century. But I’d still argue that those who were the most successful had the creative mind along with the understanding and capability to measure what is successful.

 

There’s that label again.  That cornering “technical marketer” label.  It’s a term that scares me – like giving rock n’ roll too many rules, or telling an artist he has to paint in the lines.  I worry that a post like this will polarize SEOs who don’t read closely enough to comments like “…I’d still argue that those who were the most successful had the creative mind along with the understanding and capability to measure what is successful.”  If that’s all this post were about, I’d completely agree with that.

I don’t know the author and one of the commenters, but I do know David Cohen (@explorionary) from Seer Interactive, and his work.  He and I had a quick chat over the weekend about this post. It dawned on us that we might have the makings of a pretty good read.  From here on, inspired by the format of a Nick Eubanks / Anthony Pensabene post, a semi-real time continuation of our thoughts here:

 David Cohen

I felt like this post needed a soundtrack. For me, it’s the Foo Fighters song, The Colour and the Shape. It’s not a technical song from a technical band. But the Foo Fighters just work really well together, each contributing something unique to create their dynamic sound.

Alright. The title of the aforementioned post sounds like it bothered you. It annoyed me. “Every Marketer Should Be Technical“. Why? What’s the point?

According to the author, a great marketer can now develop a high-level marketing strategy, use SQL to pull email lists, write copy, design landing pages, and then code them. I’m guessing a great contemporary marketer should also know how to make a killer Hollandaise sauce, and know how to weld wine racks too.

 Bill Sebald

There’s some good commentary over at inbound inspired by the post we’re discussing.  I think it’s a real distraction if it becomes a “them vs. us” type of battle.  SEOs already deal with it against the design folk, straight copywriters, the UX/IA teams.  We don’t need a civil war, but at the heart of marketing is creativity.  Psychology.  The art of communication.  At some point years ago SEO outgrew its technical definition, especially when it became a marketing channel in several major agencies who did online work.  I watched it happen in my old company, as it left the IT department and moved into the marketing department.

There’s room in this industry for SEOs who only know development.  There’s always a need for the person who knows the whole jQuery library or can optimize web code (etc.), just like there’s always a need for the graphic designer, the database admin, the data analyst in an online marketing campaign.  That’s vital.  But that’s not marketing.  I used the example above of “technical marketing” being an anchor.  Clearly not the case in every campaign, but I believe it can happen enough to not accept a black and white opinion on this.

 David Cohen

As a marketer, here’s a dream come true scenario for me – you decided to build a tool that listens to people better so you can create context around your marketing better.

You bring a team of devs and designers together to build this tool. The team of devs and designers allows a rep from the social and marketing teams to be a part of their creation process. And then once this tool that’s designed to help marketers create context is ready for testing, you let storytellers, copywriters, social and PR people learn its nuances, test their behavior as they use the tool, iterate, and then roll out your minimum viable product.

Then as your next iteration launches into the jungle of humanity and you have a team analyzing user behavior, you also have a community manager and PR team confidently ready to attract attention and earn people’s trust to give the tool a try. And if you can get a community built around your brand’s vision and core beliefs, the potential to meet your business objectives is high.

So, I’m not into compartmentalizing people by labeling them. Let’s just build diverse marketing teams with people who do 1 or 2 things really well and see what happens.

 Bill Sebald

I like that.  It’s like a band (and yes, I consider a drummer – a non melody maker – a musician) – bring in all the SMUs and create together, dependent on each other.  Make it iterative and you’re aiming at agile development.   I’m with you 100% David, which I figured I’d be after guessing where you were going on the SEOmoz comments.

I think this is a pretty sound counter-opinion.  I also think the opposite (original post) could be offensive to some marketers.

 David Cohen

Maybe some marketers were offended. The headline was annoying but the post was funny, and then I got sad. Especially when it got to the “12 Ingredients To Be A Technical Marketer” part. Putting the idea that marketers have to learn how to do everything from web dev, design, copywriting and technical SEO wouldn’t leave much time for a marketer to learn how to talk to actually talk to people and understand markets.

Even if a marketer fits in the ‘technical’ category, they can become better at what they do by understanding the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the people they are developing and creating things for. Just like storytellers, copywriters, and social folks can learn from technical or analytical minded people.

Last point here. And this is about marketing leadership. I think one of the best things we can do is help marketers who are coming up through the ranks to understand that you don’t actually have to be the person described in the SEOmoz post to become successful and provide value to a team.

I think we can do better (me included) at giving young marketers a clearer vision for how they best fit in the broad and diverse world of marketing. And once they catch that vision, to help them gain confidence and a strong knowledge-base. Helping people who are eager to learn to build confidence and self-esteem is one of the greatest things we can do as professionals who’ve been in the game awhile.

What do you think? Jump into the conversation.

What The End Of The World Taught Me About SEO

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  Read this post instead: What Your ‘X Taught Me About Y’ Post Actually Taught Me and learn that you shouldn’t click posts titles like this!  Have a great holiday.

(I turned off the autoplay so you can now enjoy the rest of my homepage without a soundtrack!)

Link Building With Your Sales Force

sales force

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B2B is known as the more difficult commerce sector.  Undoubtedly you have a sales force, high expectations, and a history of failed marketing campaigns.  In this space, the success rate is lower compared B2C. However, despite whether in B2B or B2C, your sales force can be your ally. If your company has any kind of inside sales team catching incoming leads or placing their own outbound calls and add-on offers, you may have the opportunity to tap into a huge link negotiating fleet.

There’s commonly a pretty thin wall between sales and marketing.  That line can be, well, strained.The sales team wants you to bring more leads, and you want the sales team to close more to validate that your leads are qualified.  You have a love/hate relationship.

Ben (a coworker in the marketing department) and I were in this same position.  When your marketing department works lean, you need to get creative with scalability.  Here are a few things we’ve recently come up with, while enjoying some reasonable success.  

  1. Help sales understand SEO.  Put together a class or lesson plan.  Use this opportunity to make some new friends.  Everyone likes beer and cake (so bring some!), but sales people really want money. Take a cue from their skillset – sell them on SEO.  Show them there’s gold in the SERPs.  Help them understand why a link they help place can bring more ranking opportunity.  Maybe turn acquired links into a bonus?  Help them make your SEO successful by making it easy for them.

    When sales people are talking to the current roster of customers, they can point the customer to a value proposition or some kind of company promotion.  You just need to support the creation of this. Some examples may be a portal of pages that show what your company does for the community (maybe you’re a local company), the earth (maybe there’s green values), or a particular cause. Promote the hell out of why you’re special.  Help the customer craft a custom press release.  Offer to release it.  Get creative.

    Next, help your sales team “empower” the customer.  In most cases the sales team is dealing with an office manager, a facilities manager, a sustainability manager, or someone who could use a little bit of help impressing their employees and management.  Just like as a consultant, where our job is to make the client look good, a salesperson could use this content to make the customer look good. Help them say, “hey employees, did you know that the widgets that we use in our company are made with 80% plastic?  That’s the equivalent to planting 5,000 trees in one year!  That’s right, we care about the environment here at ACME Widgets!”

    The content you need to produce will live on your site.  Your sales team can ask the business to link to it for their employees and their own prospects.  You’re simply asking them to help spread the word. Of course you would provide the linking code to make it easier.  And (just putting this out there) if you’re a little gray, maybe offer a discount to any customer/site that “helps you get the word out.”  Be careful not to dictate how to do this, or you’ll end up like Overstock a few years back.  

    How successful can it be?  It’s totally dependent on the message you can come up with, the interest and tolerance of your customers, and the buy-in from your sales team  I would shoot for a 4% success rate from this program.  In our experience some of the smaller customers were more inclined to promote this.  Usually one’s with an easily updated blog. Unfortunately many times it wound up on an intranet or in internal email communications. Not a big help for SEO, but I’m certainly OK with the mindshare.  We didn’t try to control the anchor text – we considered this to be too much regulation, and more of a burden on the customer.  Let it grow how it wants to grow.
      

  2. Once the sales force understands SEO, they’ll be more inclined to use their precious hours to mine through Linkedin questions, Quora, Yahoo Answers, social media, and forum boards. This is a great benefit to you since they’re probably the most knowledgeable about your company and products.  Plus it’s easy for you to keep tabs on what they’re doing (if you can’t get this into the CRM system, you always have Google Alerts).   Again, you’ll have to show them the ropes, and teach them to be mindful of the community.  You don’t want your sales force to become spammers (which they could easily, and innocently, become if not set straight from the beginning).  Now with providing answers online, you’re building your brand, referring some new traffic, and hopefully dropping a few links in the process.  

    How successful can this be?  Quite, especially for referring traffic.  Again dependent on the same as #1, this can actually turn up some huge clients.  Many of them are here (especially in Linkedin). We have a couple savvy sales people who became quite adept with Followerwonk and nurturing relationships through Twitter.  If you’re working on a CPL or targeting bigger clients, this can be a huge success by getting you in through the side door.  
     

  3. Now that the sales team has some practical experience with SEO marketing, they’re ready to feed you some ideas.  You’ve taught them, now extract everything they can teach you. What are the questions they’ve been answering?  What are the roadblocks they’ve encountered?  What are the perceptions that need to be enforced or changed?  After all of this work, you should find it pretty difficult to find something to write about for your inbound content marketing strategy.  With some content inspired by, and developed out through your sales team, your chance is much greater that the questions that were taking place in Quora and Linkedin start to get answered right on your own site… right next to the shiny form that helps the customer engage directly with you.  Write this content to be link-worthy so it can earn you continued natural backlinks.  Despite how good your content is, some sites will only link to you if they don’t feel it’s overly promotional.  These content pages don’t have to be a sales pitch. They’re altruistic search pages designed to help.  The fact that this is hosted on your domain with a simple call to action may be enough to save you from pushing the funnel too hard.

Realign, Aim, Fire

Easier said than done?  It can be.  Take a few days to draft out a plan, get the proper buy-in, and give it a spin.  Alter this with your own ideas.  B2B marketing is different, but for those who like a challenge, there’s a huge reward in beating it up.  Hopefully this post gave you some ideas to consider.

Is Google Image Search Worth a Marketing Look?

Today I’m the proud recipient of one of our industry’s most fun and creative writers, Anthony Pensabene (@content_muse).  There are three things I can tell you about Anthony.  One, he can hang later than me at a party.  Two, my fiancé is a little too attracted to him (“when are we seeing Hot Anthony again?”), and three, he’s got style.   Thanks for taking the time, sir.  – Bill

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Much like Santa’s helpers, I’ve been busy, tinkering around of late, using my site as a platform to learn some technical and development insights.

In the last weeks, I’ve broken links, torched tags, and performed cosmetic alteration, acting the WordPress Dr. Moreau.  It’s been fun; some alternations turned out looking okay, some not so much.

Let’s take opportunity, and discuss things I could do differently, considering strategy along the way.

Mind Your Legacy

Publishing a well-received post is great.  There is immediate gratification, and you feel like, “Cool, I didn’t spend all that time dressing dapper, donning a bow tie tonight for nothing.”

But, don’t be a temporary gent; be a timeless one.  Think about content’s legacy, not its immediacy. How will your brand be remembered when its pages are old and wrinkly?

Let’s take a look at my blog’s overall impression so far.  This snippet reflects all-time terms searched, leading to Content Muse traffic.

In the beginning, I started this blog as a branding platform, associating my name and grown-up alias, content muse.  I’ve done a decent job; however, what else is getting searched and clicked on?

“best buy holiday overstock shopping spree giveaway” —  “http:redeem..” —  and one other reference to a Best Buy/Overstock issue I got to the bottom of, is quite prevalent.

I could have done better (along the way), considering how I want readers, peers, and clients associating my brand in an ongoing fashion.

I’m interested in content creation, creativity, branding, reputation management, public relations, peer relations, etc.  Turn-ons include nice smiles and big brains.

Let’s consider strategy.  For instance, lately I’ve been digging the leverage of search operators, writing twice on the topic in a short time frame.

Let’s go in Webmaster Tools, taking a look at how the endeavor influenced reader search behavior as well as results.

I’m not taking over the SERs for the term, but I made a small impression’s impact, likely affecting the reception of peers and readers too, creating a stronger association to the topic and endeavor of using operators.  ["Search operators? Oh, Anthony likes playing with those.."]

 

 

That’s a good thing.  How do you want your brand remembered?  Develop a branding strategy, infusing branding principles.

Now let’s consider a blunder I made.

When uploading a picture in WordPress(.com), one may create a separate URL to the image, like here.  I noticed my site performing slowly, got to thinking I could improve speed, and began eliminating extraneous URLs.

I (thought) I tested what happens if the URL is eliminated, not wanting to rid the blog of the picture, just the link.

But rather than from the actual HTML of each, I made alterations from the media files, which was dumb.

…I broke the images to those pictures, spending hours making sense of my posts, adding new pictures, but now I know better.

Let’s go back to the notion of legacy.  One can also make a legacy via pictures.

I wrote a post a while back on authenticity, including a visual reference to Plato’s cave allegory.

An included picture was tagged with associated terms, appearing in SERs and attracting click-throughs to my pages.

 

The traffic is serendipitous in nature, but shows how graphics serve browser queries.

So, I was doing some thinking..

..which is dangerous in itself, but potentially helpful for small businesses.

This is interesting.

 

My post ranks decently for the phrase, “allegory of the cave.” I grew curious of the phrase’s data.

 

The phrase and associated varieties get monthly search traffic, despite the obscure, long-tail nature.

Then I got to thinking..more.

Rather than a didactic term or one associated with a scholarly rather than commercial pursuit, what do images look like for commercial-related terms, such as “eighties t shirts”?

I call upon my SEO ninja utility belt and Moz tools.  I look at the first image.  The page’s domain authority is low, has only fair Moz rank, but G serves up an on-page image first for a competitive search term, like “eighties t shirts.”

This page, associated to the first picture of the image search, offers long content.  It’s not outstanding, yet the page offers a mixture of prose, graphics, video, and outgoing links; a consumer may be pleased, confronted with the variety and nature of the content.

The aligned image doesn’t have eighties-related alt text.

That’s a primary, optimizing images on a web page suggestion.

Let’s look at another image, regarding the same “eighties t shirts” image search.

This page has low domain authority, nil page authority, and Moz tools does not think much of it altogether.

From a consumer’s perspective, it offers little, the page continuing on and on in a ridiculous fashion, listing site-wide tag links.

I wonder if there is some real potential here for small vendors to make a big impact via image searches.

As mentioned, the first (reading top to bottom, left to right) image is associated to a good (not great) content page, with other pages in the image results having little valuable content, a number being connected to high-authority domains, pulling weight.

Suggestions

Let’s take a look at our phrase “eighties t shirts” using Ubbersuggest (it has no image search suggestions for the term, but plenty for web searches.)  Let’s say we wanted to begin taking precedence in the ‘image’ SERs for “eighties band t shirts.”

I would consider establishing a small business’ content strategy, targeting these eighties t shirt related searches, by emulating a blog rather than product page structure.

For example, let’s relate t shirts to a concert experience, fan opinioneccentricities, etc, formulating stories featuring and relating the product.

Get creative with content, making it enjoyable as well as commercial.

Check From Exactly Where Potential Leads/Traffic is Coming

I want to see if Google makes a distinction between web and image searches related to my sought, “eigties t shirts” term.

It doesn’t when I try to discern in the keyword suggestion tool.   I do a quick search online for discussion on the matter.  Making a distinction as to where exactly traffic is coming/going is important, and I would like to hear from any one with some insight on the image search matter.

There may be opportunity for small businesses to gain traction via image search, though consumers are well conditioned to restrict behavior to web searches only.

Perhaps creating an image-centric browser tool or extension would help condition behavior.  What about teaching consumers to use Google differently, in a way more advantageous to your business?

Does every consumer do this?

No, but every consumer could if conditioned to do so.

Going back to my blog’s alignment with Plato’s cave, I believe it has to do with the obscure, long-tail nature of the search term, and my domain/page’s decent authority/traffic, a situation which could parlay itself to commercial opportunity.

See if specific images are providing traffic.  If so, how is your brand best optimizing on-page elements? If you’re getting click-throughs from images, ensure the page further capitalizes.  That’s conversion-rate optimization.

If you are not optimizing images, consider advantages the enterprise could afford.

Can you influence your consumers to search differently for your variety of services/products?

Google image search may be worth a marketing look, eh?

What I’d Like To See In 2013

This isn’t a 2013 prediction post.  This is “what I’d like to see in 2013.”

  • I’d like to see more people spending time on the value of their content.  For all the research we gain digging into a link prospect, I’d like to see the same effort put into the writing.  Use some of the same nuggets you discover.  That will lead to more niche, more detailed, and more “search” writing.  We don’t need big content pieces if they’re just pixels on a screen; we need to get better at answering long-tail queries.  The BMRs are dead, the cheap content houses are less valuable to us, and “write good content and they will come” is challenged.  Marketers aren’t always great media producers, just like they’re not all salespeople or business managers.  We’re asking what the new definition of SEO is, and it seems obvious that smart writing is a necessity.  Sometimes our content isn’t needed to explode into a confetti bang; instead, it should just sit in the library waiting to be checked out.  That’s OK.  If Google is the Dewey Decimal System, we don’t have to keep trying to push the content up people’s nose.
  • I’d like to see more from Google.  They’re testing so many products, from entity search to snippets. They’re slow to really improve these products.  I’d like to see them use social signals in a smarter way and and finally consider the authority of the producer.  I’d like to see them improve with citations, both linked and unlinked.  That makes so much sense.  The gameable +1 doesn’t, nor does the previously heavy reliance on PageRank.  But I want to also see them improve their own latent semantic indexing-like methods.  What I think we’re getting today is the hump in the middle – I’d like to see them scoop the mids and rely on the fringe, harder to quantify content and signals.  Plus, that will take the reliance of Google+.  
  • I’d like to see Google honestly level the playing field despite brand equity.  There’s a thousand conspiracy theories on why big brands rank so well.  Perception is reality – if they want to win the hearts of smaller markets, and soften the hard stares, make the right changes this time.  Again, scoop the mids, but let us know they have a point of view on equality.
  • I am 100% in favor of more hand editors, more manual reviews, and more human judging.  I’m not saying Google should be Mahalo or Wikipedia, but when Google started they had some hand editors to make sure the results were sensible.  That went south.  There may be a thin line between sensibility and bias, but 2012 has shown me that human intervention really was a good thing.  Especially when it comes to picking up the litter in the algorithm.  Though I still see some competitors who are still ranking on spam, and have somehow gotten through the Panda/Penguin nets, it’s finally something I think Google might catch.  In 2011 I had no faith in their ability to trap spam.
  • I’d like to see some more details in the strategies and tactics, and more case studies from the industry material we produce.  2012 was a year full of bland posts and presentations, an observation I recall making to my peers many times more this year than any year before.  The events have been great, but the takeaways, not so much.  That certainly doesn’t go for everyone.
  • Less solo acts, more collaboration.  
  • And as always, I’d like to see SEOs start turning their technical chops to UX and design related optimizations.  When I do an audit for a client, I can’t help but notice my checklist dropped.  We focused on improving crawlability, but that need has lessened.  From Google reading PDF files, to their abilities with JS, and a much more fueled spider, just focusing on “removing obstacles” isn’t going to do the same thing for your rankings as it used to.  It just isn’t.  This comes from a real place of experience, as I had to unclog spider jams on tons of big, horribly developed ecommerce signs.  Now, the clogs are being unclogged by spiders.  The smart SEO starts to focus on conversions over just a clean crawl or traffic, or they’re going to start to offer to limited a value.  Is CRO and usability part of SEO?  Sure – why not?  Many have been suggesting it for over 6 years or so, but how many of us are actually dedicating time to learn this?  I’d like to see 2013 be the time more SEOs become marketers concerned with the full path and completion of the product or goal.

I’d love to know what you’re hopeful for.