(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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
- 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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…
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:
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Now here’s the comparison of my SEO competitor, which was just as easy to pull up:
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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
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
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
Like this post? Vote for it on inbound.org.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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. 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.
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.
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.
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?
This isn’t a 2013 prediction post. This is “what I’d like to see in 2013.”
I want to see more proof.
There’s a time and place for theoretical marketing posts (including SEO); I’ve written my share. I still do. I’d say about half of my posts are philosophical. John-Henry Scherck called me “the prove it” guy, but I still welcome and value the philosophical posts. However, I dislike when some posts suggest facts that haven’t been proven, or when they raise more questions than they answer. As content producers we need to be conscious of this. If we make a claim, or recommend a strategy or tactic, we better have some proof that it worked. Otherwise you could be misleading your readers. Do you have the cure to manual penalties? Do directories still have value? Is comment marketing worth doing? Prove it.
SEO has more unknowns than it’s had in a while. With dozens of new, major algorithm changes, we’re back in the dark in a lot of ways. In the days of old, we would argue things in forum boards with testing results. Now I believe we’ve become accustomed to accepting things more easily.
Are We Still Testing?
We have more Googlers sharing information with us. That’s new. Matt Cutts, John Mueller, and a few Google forum boards are very helpful. But the nuggets we get are usually as ambiguous as anything written in Webmaster Guidelines. Is this fluffy information answering most SEOs questions? Personally, I tend to find myself more confused, walking away with more questions I know Google will never answer.
So I test. A lot. I have a few website playgrounds. Many have gotten torched. I built them as a reaction of getting burned by being a passive believer.
Remember Page Rank sculpting with nofollows? For a while there, I remember every website talking about the right ways to do Page Rank sculpting. They were treating the positive impact of the tactic as fact. SEOmoz had a few posts that served as the playbook for me. I loved it. I understood it perfectly and used it on many, many ecommerce websites, believing it was law. I spent my client’s money on it. My mastery of it was something I was proud of, until Matt Cutts dropped a bombshell that Page Rank sculpting with nofollows had stopped having impact about a year prior.
I’d been living a lie.
A lot of websites and SEOs had egg on their face. If we were really testing, as an industry we probably would have figured this out for ourselves. Regardless, this was a poignant moment in my career.
I don’t blame the curators – I’m glad they’re passing this stuff along so I can have it on my radar. I use Twitter more than I use my RSS reader. But I do hold the “producers of content” accountable.
Last week I watched a Whiteboard Friday about doing SEO on someone else’s website. Good concept, but I found myself asking questions:
“If you have positive press out there or if you’re going to start generating some and get it to rank well for your brand name, that’s even better than reputation management.” How? Why? Can you show me some examples?
“Remember Twitter, in particular, Google just loves to rank Twitter pages for brand names.” Can you show me? I haven’t seen this.
“I’ve seen SlideShare URLs ranking for all sorts of highly competitive phrases.” I haven’t – can you show me an example?
“If you’ve got a great link from a source, and especially if Google’s not crawling it or they haven’t crawled it yet or that link doesn’t appear to have had much impact, you might want to point some links at it to help that page gain some extra authority, particularly if it’s on a powerful domain, but you’re feeling like, man, it’s just not getting the credit, what I would normally expect it to provide to me, you can pump that page up.” Getting links is tough – can you convince me that this is worth my time? This could be an expensive and time consuming wild goose chase.
Granted – this was a video, and maybe isn’t the best vehicle for all of my questions, but this is the kind of thing that personally leaves me with frustrated. I hate when movies do it (it destroyed the Star Wars prequels), and I really hate when our industry does it. Takes me right out of the moment.
It seems to me, as a whole, we’re apparently mostly on board with authorship being “huge”, and that “social signals are important”, but compared to the old days, there really isn’t any persuading evidence out there that I’ve seen to make me stop the press. Just a lot of fluffy blog posts and convention presentations. We have some guys, like AJ Khon who properly positioned authorship as a concept to be aware of, and guys like Bill Slawski who point us to patents that suggest it may come into play. But there are others who praise it as being a game changer without showing us why. We have to be careful with that. Remember how +1 clicks were going to improve rankings? How many posts and presentations said it already started? Yeah, well, it never did.
This post isn’t a knock on any website or anyone in particular. As I said, I’m guilty of it too, but I now try to answer the questions I’m raising when I can. In this case for example, I couldn’t show the client’s pages, but I did show as much as I could to prove the case.
Articles With Proof Live Forever
I’m training an employee to learn link building. I immediately went to this post by James Agate, published in February. Thanks to Evernote, I have a list of posts that I want to remember because they’re rich in proof. That post by James has built the core of our outreach program, not because he made claims, but he showed some data. I don’t walk away with questions after a post like that.
If you come across a post that is leaving you unsatisfied, use the comments like we used to use forum boards. Do it for your industry.
I’ve commented on Twitter about how some old SEO tactics have become relevant again after the march of Penguins and Pandas. In some regards, the SEO we’ve been resorting to feels retro. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
One old-school tactic that I’m having a lot of luck with again is dynamic local landing pages. For most, I suspect this is an SEO 101 type tip, but for others it might inspire some new campaigns.
Before you continue with this post, you should have a quick read of Google’s (intentionally) vague definition of Doorway Pages. This tactic is specifically mentioned. We’ll come back to this later…
Take a look at these screenshots. This isn’t my doing, but a good example of the local landing page tactic from my neighborhood. These custom local pages are getting pretty good placement for competitive terms. Same website, different targeted local landing pages.
(click for larger images)
What Are We Talking About?
Remember the days when it seemed like local queries pulled up loads of specific location-based local pages in the natural results? They were often thin pages with tons of duplicate content (compared to the site’s other location pages). There was also a ton of footer links connected to other dupe pages in hopes of providing more crawls and PR spreading. There were several companies who sold a service of building these pages out and allowing you to host them in a directory or subdomain.
It got spammy.
But one day these pages started to fade in the SERPs; partially due to more Google Places listings pushing them down, but also seemingly due to an algorithm change as well. At least, that was my impression. I abandoned the tactic of building these local pages.
A few months ago I was looking at some competitor results and started to see a lot of these pages again (my client is in a medium-aggressive, though ripe with spam). I started taking notes. At about the same time I saw a note from John Mueller (from Google) answering a forum question about how much boilerplate text needs to be different to stand out and avoid duplicate content filters. His response (paraphrasing), “a few sentences should do it.”
Duplicate content has always been necessary on some sites, especially ecommerce, news sites, and dynamically generated location pages. Google has always recognized that sometimes duplicate content is a good user experience, but struggled with tuning their algorithm to adjust for it. They gave us functions, like the canonical tag, to help Google rank content properly (one of the few times they truly empowered SEOs). But it seems to me, the algorithm is now in a state where it’s doing a reasonable good job of parsing duplicate content on its own.
With that hope, I created a couple old-school local landing pages by hand, and linked them off a folder called /local/ on my website. Sorry, I’d love to show you some specific examples, but it’s client work. Instead I’ll continue with the site I featured above.
I used Google Analytics’ keyword report to show any local based natural search keywords to inspire my first three local pages. In this folder was a healthy Philadelphia, Houston, and Phoenix based landing page, beautifully optimized for all the terms I wanted to rank for, including useful content catered to the uniqueness of each region. This was content I knew my visitors would love. Yet, 75% of the text was identical, including the title tags.
Under the fold, I linked these sites together like the screenshot above, but much less spammy. On the homepage of my website, I shot a local link to one of these pages. The DA of the website is decent, but I was immediately impressed how well they ranked.
The Experiment Continues
With these three pages now pulling traffic, but still feeling a little spammy, I was able to optimize and “keyword wash” them a little better, until I had a go-forward template. From Salesforce I was able to pull a good list of cities who convert well for this business, and prioritize my remaining hundreds of local pages. With the help of my team, we had a few hundred built in relatively few hours. This time, instead of the homepage link pointing to one page, we created a hub local HTML sitemap. Every page I checked was indexed within a day.
It’s interesting to see this working again (it’s been years), but today I was working on on a dynamic template that now pulls from a database of zip codes. In my database I have enough unique content to push the 75% dupe content to 25%, just to make it more penalty proof and user-focused. I’ll have hundreds of these pages by the end of the week. This next step of care is going to make a bigger difference.
Results So Far
Now with almost 200 pages since May, it’s great watching the traffic come in. The local pages represent 22% of my total natural traffic in October. My natural search conversion rate is 23% higher for these pages than all my other organic keywords. I’m exciting to grow this with more pages.
This Will All Die If…
Hopefully for a few of you this will be actionable, and might drive a new strategy. But I beg you. Don’t spam this like we did before. I’m clearly admitting my first rollout above was actually a little spammy because it was really just about the keyword ranking. If a hand editor or algorithm marked this, they might knock it a bit for over-optimization. Based on the last 10 months, we have every reason to believe Google will come after it without prejudice (if it’s not already on the docket). Do this right, and make it valuable for the searchers. Because this is drawn to pretty specific queries, your conversion rate will likely be higher.
I’m confused. Isn’t this against Google guidelines?
Maybe. If your intent is to “manipulate search engines and deceive users by directing them to sites other than the one they selected, and that provide content solely for the benefit of search engines.” But what if your local pages are actually unique to location? What if while hoping to win in SEO, you’re also providing unique value for the targeted region? If you’re a service provider in Philadelphia, you could write something on your Philly page about the average wait time for Philadelphia service, or a unique phone number for Philly residents, or maybe other local resources that align with your offering? Suddenly a doorway page seems more valuable.
I don’t know of any page like this being Panda’d out; the popular definition of a doorway page is a page that deceives users (usually living on microsites) that funnel traffic to a destination they didn’t originally want. I don’t condone spam, but I do urge you to draw your own conclusion and take care when implementing this tactic.