Dry Your Tears: Link Building Isn’t Dead

lost-toddler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a controversial couple of weeks in SEO land, with Google again taking action against large online communities and sites that they claim have broken their webmaster rules.

The current crackdown relates specifically to the practice of guest blogging and how it breaches Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by falling under their revised definition of Link Schemes. Manual penalties have been handed out to sites that are known to offer guest posting services on a large scale or provide a guest blogging network. The penalties follow a similar pattern to Google’s action against article marketing directories last year.

What I don’t understand is why everyone’s so surprised. People are acting as though guest blogging is new to Google’s spam radar. It’s not. If you look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you’ll see the following cited as an example of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

“Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links”

Based on my research on the Wayback Machine, this statement was added to the Guidelines sometime between the end of July and the beginning of August 2013.

Besides, Matt Cutts has given plenty of warnings about potential action taken on sites that use such methods. We’ve been duly warned, folks.

Even so, webmasters are like lost toddlers at the mall right now when it comes to the topic of link building. They are wandering around blindly, crying loudly, looking for familiar territory and some kind of reassurance that everything is going to be ok. I’m witnessing a lot of tantrums and hearing shouts of “link building is dead!”, “Google’s killed innocent links, it’s so unfair!”

If you’re one of those frightened webmasters, DON’T PANIC. Take a breath and review your current link building methods. If they include anything remotely similar to what Google describes in their link scheme definition, stop doing it. Now. Assign somebody to clean up aisle 4. Remove any incriminating evidence of said scheme and remove it from your link building plan, permanently. Breathe. Take a yoga class and chill the heck out.

Most importantly, don’t abandon your link building activities. The practice of building links is not dead, despite the rumors. It’s just different. The best link building tactics have actually been under your nose the whole time.

Don’t believe me?

Here are 11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links.

Now, go dry your tears.

 

Share this post with others

What to Blog About When You Have Nothing to Blog About

no-inspiration

 

In my travels around the world holding Internet Marketing workshops, the subject of blogging invariably pops up. Usually, it is prompted by a fierce discussion about business web sites and the hairy dilemma of fresh content or lack thereof.

The Company Blog Dilemma

The discussion goes something like this:

Business Representative: “You say that we need to consistently add new content to our web sites in order to rank better in Google. But what sort of content can we add? We’ve already got pages for each of our products.”

Me: “You can add all sorts of content. Newsletters, customer testimonials, white-papers, articles. Do you have a company blog?”

Business Representative: “Not any more. We used to have one because our competitor started one. But we didn’t have anything to blog about so we deleted it”.

Me: “What do you mean you didn’t have anything to blog about?”

Business Representative: “We’re a company. We don’t really have a lot to say. Blogs might work for personal web sites, but not for a company. We really didn’t know what to blog about.”

Myth Busted

I’m always amused when I hear this argument. I tend to respond with a raised eyebrow and a knowing smirk. Rather than continue to argue, I simply load this page on to the big screen.

This “article” – and I use the term loosely – consists of nothing more than a handful of photos and less than 200 words of text. The subject matter is RIDICULOUS. Why would anyone feel the need to write about a lost TV remote? Well apparently, it’s a direct response to frustrated searchers who type in things like “where is the *&%$&^ TV remote?” or “where did I leave my keys?” into Google in desperation. As remote as it seems (ha!) there is actually a market for this type of thing and WikiHow authors have capitalized on it.

Let’s face it – if you can blog about how to find a lost TV remote, you can blog about ANYTHING. Look how many shares that article has had! I’m sharing it with you now and I’ve seen it shared on Facebook a dozen times, possibly in a “what the…?” way, but still.

It might be an extreme example, but it underscores the point that the “I have nothing to blog about” excuse doesn’t cut it any more. You truly CAN blog about anything. Q and A based or How To style blog posts are the most popular with searchers, because people are constantly looking for answers and solutions to problems. If you can meet that need, you are halfway to doubling your traffic.

Sources of Blogging Inspiration

Still unsure what to blog about? Let me give you some potential examples:

Blog Topic Ideas for: Banking / Finance

  • How to Choose a Suitable Retirement Fund
  • Q & A: Which Bank Fees are Tax Deductable?
  • 10 Tricks to Get Your Kids to Save Their Pocket Money
  • 5 Financial Calculators You Can’t Do Without

Blog Topic Ideas for: Travel / Hospitality Industry

  • Top 10 Items to Include on Your Packing List
  • Q & A: Is a Credit Card or Debit Card Better to Take on Vacation?
  • Best Value Vacations for Large Families
  • How to Always Book the Best Seats on a Plane

Blog Topic Ideas for: Retail

  • 10 Tips for Successful Online Clothes Shopping
  • How to Win Online Auctions Without Using Auto Bidding Tools
  • Online Shopping: How to Protect Your Privacy
  • How to Find Retail Coupons Online

Blog Topic Ideas for: Education Sector

  • How to Manage Restrictions on Your Child’s Mobile Device
  • Q & A: Are Online Courses Recognized by Employers?
  • Top 10 Mobile Devices for Senior School Students
  • 5 Apps That Will Encourage Your Kids to Do Homework

Getting the drift? I made these up in about 10 minutes, but I’m sure you can come up with plenty of more appropriate ideas that make sense for your own particular industry and target audience.

Metrics Gold:

A fantastic source of potential web site or blog content can be found in your site analytics. If you use internal site search, make sure you check the search trends on a regular basis. If you’re using Google Analytics, you can find these under Behavior -> Site Search. Here you can find not only the search terms that people entered into your internal site search box, but the pages that they visited as a result of their search. This is metrics GOLD! You will often see keywords and topics here that your visitors are looking for on your site but aren’t finding. Again, it comes back to the concept of providing answers to regular questions. If you are an online retailer who sells baby capsules and you’re noticing a lot of visitors searching for “baby capsule for car”, that should prompt you to write an article or blog post along the lines of “How to Secure Your Baby Capsule in the Car”.

Customer Driven Content:

Your Customer Support or Help Desk team can also be an ideal source of fresh site content. They are the people closest to your customers and they have a good idea of what problems or questions customers have about your products and services. By gauging the topics your customers are most interested in, you can plan new content knowing that you have an audience already keen for it.

It’s a similar story with Social Media. The conversations you have with your customers via social channels can be a source of inspiration for new blog posts. Even a basic exchange on Twitter, for example, can be easily turned into a Q and A article.

So next time you think “But I have nothing to blog about!”, refer back to this article and think again. Now… where did I put that jolly TV remote?

Share this post with others

Everything You Wanted to Know About Google Hummingbird But Were Afraid to Ask

Google-HummingbirdBased on a few emails I’ve had this week and some comments left on Sarah’s last Fast Five in Search post, it’s apparent that some of you are still confused about Google Hummingbird and what it means for your site’s performance in Google.

I’ve gathered together some of the key points and added some of my own insights below to try and shed some light on the issue.

Google Hummingbird: A Summary

  • Hummingbird is an entirely new search algorithm, representing the most major change to the Google search engine since 2001.
  • Google has been using Hummingbird since late August, but only announced it in late September.
  • The new algorithm helps Google sort through “conversational search” faster and better understand the context of the conversation. Conversational search has natural language processing and semantic search built into it. For example you can now *speak your search* on Chrome and it will repeat it back to you before displaying contextual search results related to your query. You can then extend your search “conversation” by asking further questions in a way you can’t do with regular search, e.g. using shortcuts that reference your previous query. Often, information cards will be shown alongside search results.
  • Hummingbird focuses better on the meaning behind the words based on the context of the search query and the searcher. In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. Hummingbird is designed to apply the meaning technology to billions of pages from across the web, in addition to Knowledge Graph facts which should provide better, richer results.
  • Hummingbird now allows Google to be better at relationally linking search queries and Web documents which means that its Knowledge Graph has been considerably enriched.
  • Hummingbird focuses on user intent versus individual search terms.
  • Google will likely use Hummingbird to better process social signals and this could turn out to be a major SEO ranking factor in the near future.

Key Examples of Hummingbird at Work

  • A search for “acid reflux prescription” used to list a lot of drugs, which might not be necessarily be the best way to treat the disease. With Hummingbird, Google says results have information about treatment in general, including whether you even need drugs, such as a “treatment for acid reflux” article posted by the Mayo Clinic.
  • Another example: Today I searched for “What can I take to help me sleep?” on Google.com. I noticed that nearly half of the top 10 results were Q & A or *How To* style articles. I also noticed that suggested medicines treatments featured more prominently than they used to (see screen shot below):

hummingbird-search-screenshot2
Google Hummingbird: Key Takeaways

  • SEO is now less about keyword data and more about customer engagement.
  • As a result of Hummingbird, SEO strategy has become more about creating quality, engaging, shareable, linkable content within a logical context (i.e. using semantic markup and natural language). The aim is to become an information hub and trusted source. This can be achieved by answering searcher questions and creating content that emulates those information cards that Google supplies in response to conversational search.
  • Hummingbird and the increase of *Not Provided* (hidden keyword) data means you now have to measure the success of your web site via the entry pages and the number of pages receiving organic referrals i.e. It is now critically important that your website answers questions for end users. Content that answers specific questions will be critical for Hummingbird success. Websites can’t grow their entrance pages without introducing new content regularly.
  • It’s now less about the keyword and more about the intention behind it. Not having keywords provided in analytics makes it harder to discover customer intent, but we can get clues about that by monitoring visitor pathways on our sites and actively engaging with customers on social media and other channels.
  • Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different that SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and better ways.
  • If you haven’t lost traffic in the past two months, you probably came through Hummingbird unscathed as it went live about 2 months ago.
  • There’s been no major outcry among webmasters that they’ve lost rankings. This seems to support Google saying this is very much a query-by-query effect, one that may improve particular searches — particularly complex ones — rather than something that can cause major traffic shifts.

BUT:

David Amerland, search engine expert and author of *Google Semantic Search* says Google’s move toward semantic search will benefit SEO practices:

“Google has increased its ability to deal with complex search queries which means that it also has got better at indexing entities in Web documents. From a strategy point of view this opens the horizon for companies and webmasters considerably. From a practical perspective, the need to identify the USP of each business and become authoritative within it is now a key criteria for continued SEO success. The comparison element that has been integrated suggests that semantic mark-up may begin to confer an advantage now when it comes to helping index information in products and services.”

He emphasizes the importance of content not being left in isolation, but instead shared across social networks via identified influencers:

“This is not something that can or will happen at the drop of a hat,” said Amerland, “It requires time and commitment to building a relationship with influencers and sharing with them content that is of real value to their network.” Quick SEO, according to Amerland, “Is now firmly in the past.”

Google Hummingbird: Changes You Should Make Immediately as a Result

So exciting improvements for searchers, but where does that leave you? Here are some recommended changes you can and should be making to your web sites as a result of Hummingbird:

1) Add Question Answer Pattern Content (e.g. like you find on a Q & A page or a Facebook comment thread )

2) Set up a Google+ page for your business if you haven’t already done so.

3) Implement Google Authorship on your site/blog and link it to your Google+ page.

4) Use Schema Mark Up for any rich technical data on your site, such as product specifications, dosage instructions and garment sizing.

5) Ramp up your social marketing activity to take advantage of Google’s new conversational search skills and make sure you cross-promote your social channels with your main web site content.

6) Implement Mobile SEO Tactics (e.g. increase load speed, reduce file sizes, increase mobile content)

7) Increase the Domain Authority of Your Site  (via more incoming links)

8) Add new content to your site REGULARLY. The addition of new content is now absolutely vital to online marketing efforts in a post-Hummingbird environment. If you can’t add fresh data to your web site on a regular basis, get ready to wave to your competitors as they go sailing past you towards the top of the SERPs.

Speed is of the essence. This information is only just filtering out into the SEO world. The sooner you can respond with Hummingbird-friendly content, the more traffic you’ll get before your competitors will even know what’s hit them.

Questions? Comments? Please add to this thread.

Key Sources for This Post:

http://searchengineland.com/google-hummingbird-172816

http://searchengineland.com/hummingbird-has-the-industry-flapping-its-wings-in-excitement-reactions-from-seo-experts-on-googles-new-algorithm-173030

http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2298881/What-Not-Provided-Google-Hummingbird-Mean-for-Small-Business-SEO

http://www.sitepronews.com/2013/10/18/googles-hummingbird-update-5-changes-need-implement/

http://searchengineland.com/what-everybody-missed-about-hummingbird1-176031

 

Share this post with others

Google Targets Article Marketing, Guest Blogging & Press Releases in Link Scheme Definition Update

article-marketing-newIf you don’t pay regular attention to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you might have overlooked it, but last month, Google made a significant change to their definition of link schemes.

The revised link scheme wording now cites the following as violating Google’s guidelines:

  •     Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
  •     Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.
  •     Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

Google also removed these examples from the link scheme guidelines:

  •     Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank.
  •     Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence.

The changes are important in SEO circles, because article marketing, guest blog posts, advertorials and press release syndication are often key components of holistic SEO campaigns. Note in particular that “links with optimized anchor text” are mentioned specifically for the first time. Until fairly recently, the use of anchor text was considered a standard component of effective article writing and any on-page optimization.

With these changes, article syndication and press release optimization – unless implemented extremely carefully – may end up having a negative SEO impact on the very web sites they were intended to help.

In the wake of the changes, we took our Search Engine College Article Marketing course offline temporarily to check lesson content against the new guidelines and re-write any sections that may have been ambiguous.

If your SEO strategy uses any of these initiatives, I suggest taking a very close look at the revised Google Webmaster Guidelines and ensuring your implementation adheres to the revised policy.

——————————————————————–

Struggling with optimizing your web site? Download your Free SEO Lesson.

Share this post with others

40 Tips for Stress-Free Public Speaking

public speaking tipsNo matter what kind of job you have, or what business you’re in, there comes a time when you are asked to give a presentation in front of a group of people.

Now public speaking is something that doesn’t come naturally to most of us and in fact a survey not too long ago found that many people are more terrified of speaking in public than they are of death itself. When asked to choose between death and public speaking, death was the preferred option! Crazy, right?

But for those of us with social anxiety, public speaking, even to small groups, can fill us with dread. As an educator and consultant, a large part of my job involves public speaking. I am called upon to present information in client meetings to senior management, I speak to large groups of students and universities via webinars, I give presentations to large rooms full of people at conferences and I run regular full and half day training workshops for industry organisations. So I regularly give presentations to groups of people ranging from 5 to 500.

I used to HATE giving public presentations. I still dislike it strongly, but after regularly forcing myself into giving them for 10 years now, I am slightly more relaxed about it than I used to be. Sure, I still find it difficult to sleep the night before a speaking gig. And if you look closely at me on stage, you’ll probably spot my legs shaking, but provided I have prepared well and know my subject matter, I’ll muddle through and generally do a good job.

Going along with the analogy “do something every day that scares you”, I think it’s important for me to put myself out there and prove to myself that I can do it. I also feel it is excellent therapy to help me deal with my social anxiety. Apart from the benefits to myself, I know I have a lot of knowledge that I can impart to others and what better way to share that knowledge than public speaking?

Anyway, after giving yet another presentation this week, it occured to me that I have built up a pretty good pre-presentation checklist that others might find useful. So here they are:

Top Tips for Making Your Presentations Run Smoothly and Stress Free:

  1. Find out exactly where the venue is in relation to your accommodation and if you’ve got time, make a practice run to the venue the day before.
  2. If the venue is large (e.g. a university), ask for a map showing exactly where the room is that you’ll be speaking in.
  3. If you’re driving to the venue, factor in extra time for unexpected traffic jams and take plenty of coins in case you need to use paid parking.
  4. Find out what technology will be available to you (whiteboard / projector / laptop / slide clicker) and adjust if necessary.
  5. If you’ve arranged catering for break times, confirm details with caterers the day before.
  6. Get at least 8 hours sleep the night before.
  7. Have a big breakfast but no coffee if it makes you anxious. Try a decaf or hot chocolate instead.
  8. Get to the venue at least an hour early so you can get comfortable, test the technology and rehearse.
  9. Upon arrival, make yourself known to someone at the venue who can help you with technical and other issues.
  10. Make sure you know exactly how much time you have on stage and confirm break times with the organizers and your audience before starting.
  11. Wear layers. No matter what the weather outside, air conditioning can be your friend and your foe. Wear clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in, but in layers that you can easily slip on or off depending on the room temperature.
  12. Wear comfortable shoes.
  13. Re-read that last point. This is important! Public speaking is no place for stilettos. Especially when you are walking around on a stage that will likely have electrical cables snaking all over it.
  14. Don’t assume the venue will provide you with water. Take a bottle with you.
  15. Don’t assume the venue will provide paper and pens for your attendees – ask for them.
  16. Bring your business cards and place them somewhere prominent for people to take.
  17. Bring your presentation on a Flash drive in multiple formats (e.g. .pptx, .ppt, .odp, .pdf) just in case something goes wrong.
  18. Bring your own HDMI or component cable for hooking up to a projector, just in case the venue doesn’t have one.
  19. Bring a backup power source for your laptop and/or projector.
  20. Bring or ask for a lapel microphone if the venue is large and you want to be sure you can be heard up the back.
  21. Don’t assume the venue will provide Internet access. With large audiences, free wifi at events can often be maxed out quickly, so if you need Internet access for your presentation, take your own or make arrangements with the organizers.
  22. If you have mobile Internet access via your phone, take along your phone charger and spare battery in case you need to use it.
  23. Don’t assume you can use your own laptop.
  24. Don’t assume you don’t need your own laptop.
  25. Be prepared for the venue to run everything on Windows (take adaptors for Mac and/or Linux). Yes, I learned this one the hard way.
  26. Don’t assume your laptop will recognize the venue projector/monitor. Take your own or have a backup plan.
  27. Don’t assume the venue projector/monitor supports Presenter Mode. Take a print out of your notes in case you can’t see notes/slides view while presenting.
  28. If you are linking to live resources on the Internet, have them open in separate windows on your laptop and test that all links work.
  29. If you are showing videos, test they work and test the volume of the audio to make sure they can be heard by everyone in the room.
  30. Find out how to turn the lights on/off if you need to show videos.
  31. Find out where/if you can increase the temperature of the air conditioning in the room in case attendees are too hot/cold.
  32. Bring deodorant, especially if you have a tendency to sweat when anxious.
  33. Bring breath mints so you can feel confident networking with attendees afterwards.
  34. Remember to turn off your cell phone prior to going on stage, unless you are using it for Internet access. In this case, turn the volume down or off in case your Mom tries to call mid-presentation.
  35. Store some tissues in a pocket that will be easily reachable during your presentation in case your nose starts to run (air conditioning can be brutal at some venues!).
  36. Smile. Even if you’re struggling or things are not going well, people will forgive you if you smile your way through.
  37. Ask your audience some questions! It will take the focus off you, just for a little while and give you a chance to pause and collect your thoughts. This is a great tip if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed or find yourself racing through your slides.
  38. Work out where the toilets are before you go on stage, in case you have to slip out quickly or the attendees ask you where they are.
  39. Find out the emergency exits and fire/earthquake drills for the venue before you go on stage and make sure your audience knows it too. After living in Christchurch for the past few years, this is pretty much routine at all business events now!
  40. Always ask for feedback on your presentation, either from the audience directly, or via the organizer if they are using feedback forms. Good or bad, audience feedback is extremely valuable. Positive feedback can validate your hard work and reinforce your sense of achievement in standing up in front of a group. Negative feedback in the form of honest, constructive criticism can highlight areas for improvement and help you develop your presentations skills for next time. It’s a win, win!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and perhaps they will help your next public speaking engagement run a little more smoothly. Do you have any tips not included here? Please add them in the comments.

Share this post with others