Fast Five in Search – Week 29, 2014

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If you’re a long term reader of this blog, you’ll know that I sometimes write articles for SiteProNews. Sometimes I’ll get a reader question here and I’m able to say “I just wrote an article about that topic” and point to the article over at SPN. But apart from the occasional Q&A reference, I’m not great at promoting my own articles.

So for today’s Fast Five, I thought I’d share with you the last 5 articles I wrote for SiteProNews.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) What to Blog About When You Have Nothing to Blog About – This article was inspired by the many, many webmasters who approach me about the difficulty they have finding topics to blog about. In this article, I bust the “blogger’s block” myth and show you just how easy it is to come up with topics for your company blog. I even suggest a range of topics to suit blogs in various industries.

2) Five Must-Have Spreadsheets for Online Marketing Professionals – A short piece that highlights five spreadsheet-based marketing tools that I use myself or recommend on a regular basis.

3) 11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links – Another article inspired by questions I get on this blog. This one talks about all the ways you can safely build incoming links to your site in the wake of Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates. This is a two part article, with Part Two over here.

4) A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Domaining – I wrote this article after my recent experience trying to sell a domain I’ve owned for over 10 years. It’s an introduction to the murky but profitable world of domain flipping and includes a detailed list of domaining resources.

and finally…

5) 20 Free Marketing eBooks You Need to Download Right Now – Trust me, you’ll want to bookmark this one. This article is a review of my favorite free eBooks and White Papers relating to marketing, categorized by theme. In the article, I’ve linked to the jump page from where you can access the PDF file for each freebie.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links

link buildingIn the current post Google Hummingbird environment, webmasters are increasingly unsure how to tackle the important task of link building.

Editorial links are the most desirable of all: regular links that are given freely and naturally by sites that want to link to your content without any incentive. To acquire these links, you need to first provide information that is worth linking to.

There are a wide range of unique ways to acquire editorial links to your site. Here are 11 of them:

1) Blogging

You only need to do a Google search for *blog* to realize that blogging has skyrocketed as a content strategy in the past 5 years. Writing a blog helps you to establish authority in a subject area and – if done well – provides original, interesting content for search engines to index. It’s no secret that blog platforms such as WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger have become enormously popular with content creators, not just for creating blogs, but as stand-alone Content Management Systems with which to design entire sites.

Search engines seem to lap up blog content more so than other types of content, because the technology used to create it generally produces very clean code which is easy to index AND a lot of unique content that tends to be fresher or more current. This results in more links from the search results and more traffic than traditional site pages. Blogs are ideal for social conversation as well. If you allow comments on your blog posts, it’s quite common to find yourself engaged with a number of people about the content of your post, which can lead to even more links.

There’s really no trick to this method. Create a blog, add unique content and keep it fresh by posting regularly. No-one reads a dead blog.

2) Industry / Community Involvement

It sounds obvious, but if you want to be noticed and attract links to your content, you need to visibly participate in your online community. It’s not enough to publish great content, you have to go read and comment on other blogs and news sites and keep up with what’s happening in your industry or niche, otherwise you are operating in a vacuum.

Subscribe to news feeds, comment regularly on blog posts that get you thinking, participate in forum discussions, attend conferences and events and become more visible. This will build up your profile and authority in the field, spark ideas for blog posts and new content of your own and naturally trigger more links and referrals to your blog/site.

3) Link Bait

Link bait is simply a form of viral marketing, where web site content is published specifically for the purpose of gaining attention and building a lot of incoming links in a short space of time, usually with the intent of boosting the ranking of a page or site in search results.

As the object of link bait is to gain attention, the content used as *bait* is generally something that appeals to a wide audience and is memorable. Link bait tends to contain one or more of the following elements or themes:

  • controversy
  • humor
  • shock
  • rumor
  • history
  • celebrity
  • politics
  • discovery
  • current affairs

The most successful link bait has an intriguing headline and a killer hook (first paragraph). It also needs to be easily shareable.

One example that springs to mind immediately is the Bacon Explosion recipe, developed and blogged about in 2009 by a SEO and his systems administrator friend as part of a local BBQ competition. The recipe gained attention for its enormous calorie count (over 5,000 calories) and pure meat ingredients, resulting in national media attention from the likes of the New York Times, CNN and even a guest spot on Good Morning America. As you can imagine, the recipe brought thousands of links to the inventor’s blog and launched an entirely new business for them.

While this was a happy ending, you have to be super careful with deliberate link bait, because it can blow up in your face. Blogger Lyndon Antcliff found this out the hard way, when his parody blog post written for Money Magazine in the UK in 2008 made front page news across the Internet as an authentic news story until it was finally *exposed* as a fake.

4) Article Marketing and Syndication

An excellent way to attract links to your site is by writing articles about your areas of expertise and encouraging other sites to re-publish the articles for free in exchange for a link back to your site. The way it works is you use a by-line at the top and an author bio at the end of the article which contains a link back to your site. You can use anchor text in the link that integrates relevant keywords and provide the whole article, including link text, for re-publishing. This is called article syndication and the idea is to build up a new link to your site every time your article is re-published. However, you need to approach the way you go about doing this very carefully.

In the past, it was recommended and commonplace for writers to create a large number of articles and submit them to what’s known as Article Directories e.g. EzineArticles.com and GoArticles.com. These directories would then make that content available for re-publishing on hundreds or thousands of sites across the Internet. But just recently, Google advised that syndication via article directories is something they would not recommend in terms of a link building tactic.

According to the Webmaster video uploaded by Matt Cutts on the subject, they consider article directories to contain mostly low quality content and are using filters to prevent links from such content from influencing ranking. You can see Matt’s video here.

So if you do decide to use article syndication as a link building method, just make sure you do your research carefully and only choose syndication sites that have a good standing with Google and other search engines. No matter what syndication method you use, be sure to publish your articles on your own site first, to establish authority and original authorship. That way, you can promote the availability of your articles for re-publishing, but within terms that are clearly specified on your site and within your own control e.g. using a Creative Commons license.

Also be sure to take advantage of Google Authorship and link your articles to your Google+ profile so your author profile and photo shows up in the search results alongside your article.

5) Lists

Lists work well as blog posts and can be highly linkable content. You know the type I mean. Things like: Top 10 Kids Movies, 50 Ways to Propose, World’s Richest People Under 30 etc. There’s a very good reason why US Late Show host David Letterman always ends his show with a list of Top 10 Things. Because they work. They’re funny, they’re memorable and some people will sit through the entire show just to see them.

6) How To’s / Tutorials / FAQs

I’m not sure if it’s still there, but in the foyer of the Googleplex in Mountain View California, there used to be a large screen that displayed search queries typed into Google from around the world in real time. Watch it for a minute or less and you were bound to see a search query that starts with “How do I…?” or “What is the best way to…?”

Clearly, a great deal of people use the Internet to research how to perform a particular task or answer a specific question. You can take advantage of this habit by creating content that answers common questions. If you have good skills in a particular area – in a certain piece of software for example – you could create a web page, short tutorial, PDF or blog post about how to use that product/tool/software and publish it on your site. Game cheat sites were born out of “how do I…?” search queries, as were sites like WikiHow and the now defunct Google Answers.

The nice side effect of writing How To content is that you build up your credibility as an expert in your field and increase the likelihood of your site becoming an authority site in your niche.

See if any of your existing site information lends itself to creating How to or FAQ style content and re-write it for maximum link value. Or better still, create a How To video and upload it to YouTube.

7) Original Research

Another logical link acquisition technique, and one that Matt Cutts refers to in his video blog post on the subject is the creation of original, unique and/or exclusive research into a particular subject.

If you conduct a new study or undertake research that is not available anywhere else on the Internet, chances are that it is extremely valuable to others. Product comparisons, statistical research, software reviews, experiments and detailed analytics can all be translated into pages of content and shared online. Such unique content is bound to be picked up quickly by search engines and shared by others, particularly if you circulate it via your social media channels.

8) Interviews

Let’s face it, some personalities build a huge following on the Internet and will attract traffic no matter what is written about them. I’m not just referring to celebrities either. Every industry or niche has evangelists and personalities that are well known for both good and bad reasons. You can use this to your advantage by writing articles about them or better still, scoring an interview with them and republishing it.

But just like in traditional journalism, if you want the piece to be shared and linked-to, you’ll need to spend some time carefully planning your questions in a way that will elicit unique information and candid responses from the person that can’t be found elsewhere.

9) Products and Tools

If you have a tech-savvy team or a keen developer, you might look at mini product development as a link building technique. You can create small but useful products or tools for free and syndicate them via your site. For example, a Word Press theme, a plugin for Firefox, a simple iPhone app, a shareable game – anything that can be packaged up as a product, easily delivered and associated with your brand.

Be sure to include your brand attribution within the design interface and a link back to your site. By providing the the product/tool for free, you are more likely to achieve higher circulation, which should have a snowball effect in terms of incoming links.

10) Resources and Collections

When you compile a list of resources in a particular niche or subject, you are saving others a lot of research and tedious yak shaving. Because of the concentrated amount of information and content you offer on a particular subject or theme, you’ll often find that more sites will link to your site rather than conduct their own research, particularly if that theme is trending or attracting high search volume.

Group together your resources in a subject or pull together a new collection that you think others might benefit from and publish it. Perhaps your existing content lends itself to being categorized into different subject areas? For example, do you have a bunch of blog posts on scrapbooking techniques that could be bundled together to create a Beginner’s Guide to Scrapbooking? What about all those PDF documents on your server – could they be grouped together to form a collection or library for your visitors to browse and download?

This leads into our final editorial link building technique:

11) Existing Content

To build new editorial links, you might think you absolutely have to create new content. But that’s not necessarily the case. Revisit your existing site content and internal marketing material and see if you can recycle it or rework it to fit into one of the categories listed above.

Take a close look at the following for inspiration:

  • previous newsletter content
  • related blog posts
  • customer testimonials
  • technical product content
  • email campaigns
  • survey results
  • site metrics data
  • ad campaigns
  • PDF documents
  • case studies

Create a Fresh Content Ideas list and whenever a new idea hits you, jot it down or schedule it into your Editorial Calendar. You’ll be surprised at what a 15 minute detour into your blog archives or Google Analytics account can produce.

Finally, when you’re planning editorial content, ask yourself “Is this quality content? Will people find this interesting or useful?”. If you can’t honestly answer “yes”, it’s simply not worth publishing. Rethink and rework until you have truly linkworthy content.

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Dry Your Tears: Link Building Isn’t Dead

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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.

 

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Q and A: Can a List of Client Sites Be Seen as Link Spamming?

QuestionHi Kalena

I recently finished up helping my dad remake and SEO his site. His company has been around for a long time, and his site hadn’t been updated in a very long time, so it was time for a total remake. The URL stayed the same, but we updated the content/graphics/general design of the site.

So my first question is about a page on the site for “Who Uses Our Service”. On the page there is at least 200 companies listed, and most had links to their sites included. Would Google consider this some type of link spamming to have that many links on a page? Or do they really only care about links pointing TO your site, rather than FROM it? For now we have added a nofollow thing to the robots.txt so Google won’t index that page, but if it wouldn’t impact us negatively, then it would be nice to have it indexed.

My final question is regarding SEO in general. Pretty much I’m wondering how long it takes for SEO to start taking affect, and any reasons why an updated/new site (but with a link that has been around for a long time), that is keyworded on every page for our target keywords, and has some backlinks (not sure of the quantity or quality because this was done a long time ago, not by me), would still not show up within the first 5-10 pages of Google?

We submitted the sitemap to google about 10 days ago, how long would it take for the SEO to really start affecting it’s place in results? The weird thing is it is still top 3 or so in Bing and Yahoo, but had pretty much entirely dropped off the search results in Google, which is part of the reason we remade it. But it still isn’t showing up anywhere, so maybe it just hasn’t been long enough for things to start kicking in?

Sorry for the very long post, but needed to give the details. Thanks for any help!

Chris

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Hi Chris

A double whammy! Ok, let’s see if I can answer both questions in one post:

1) Google recommends a max of 100 outgoing links on any page. Any more links than that and Googlebot may not follow them or index remaining page code. To combat this, I would recommend that you break up that page listing all client sites into several smaller pages, perhaps by category? So law firms on one page, govt agencies on another etc.

In addition, if you are concerned about the page being mistaken for a link farm or directory, I would advise you to use the rel=nofollow tag on all those outgoing links. Unless you specifically want to pass PageRank to those sites, that is the best option for you. It instructs Google that you are not passing on any link juice and so Google is more likely to treat those page/s as genuine content, which is what they are.

2) New sites can take anywhere from 3 to 30 days to show up in Google. To determine if the site has been indexed, you need to do a search for your domain e.g. site:http://[yourdomain].com. If it is showing pages for your domain, then Google has indexed it. If it is showing some pages but not others, you need to investigate any indexing issues using Google Webmaster Tools and compare your site map with the pages indexed to see what could be going on. Webmaster Tools will tell you exactly how often Googlebot is indexing the site and which pages it is indexing.

Also make sure you check your robots.txt file against your XML sitemap to ensure you aren’t giving Google conflicting indexing permissions. I’ve seen many a client blame Google for a baffling indexing issue that was caused by their own instructions to Googlebot in their robots.txt file.

If there are still pages from the old site listed in Google, you need to make sure you use 301 redirects on those old URLs to point them to the new pages. This will signal to Google to update any old content listings. If you spot any dodgy backlinks pointing to the site from previous link partners, you should request they be removed, and/or you can also use the disavow backlinks tool in Webmaster Tools to make sure Google no longer takes those links into account.

If the new pages are listed, but just aren’t ranking as well as you like, it may be that they are under-optimized or over-optimized for your target keywords, OR, the keywords you are trying to rank for are simply too competitive. Keep tweaking the page and testing until you hit the sweet spot that sees the page ranking in the first page or two of search results for logical, realistic keyword phrases.

I would also recommend doing some more in-depth keyword research using some of the tools and methods I’ve previously recommended to make sure you find every possible keyword combination that your potential audience is using when conducting searches. You’ll find that targeting long-tail keywords (search terms with more words and/or that are more specific) will give you the edge over competitors when it comes to ranking. You may not draw as much traffic from them, but the traffic you do attract will be more qualified to purchase/sign up.

It may also be that competing sites have a much stronger backlink profile and so Google is naturally positioning them ahead of you in the search results. If this is the case, conduct a link audit and kick off a consistent link building campaign. In particular, you’ll need to determine how your competitor’s backlink profile compares to yours so you know how much work you need to do in order to out-rank them. My recent post about link audits should help you through this process.

Best of luck!

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New Milestones for Search Engine College

SEC-smiley-150x178We’ve been busy bees at Search Engine College HQ this month, with lots of exciting milestones and a few developments in the pipeline.

First up – in line with our our push towards integrating more multi-media content and interactive learning materials, we have added over 30 new YouTube videos to our various training modules in the past few days. Existing students and subscribers can view the videos from within the course areas.

If that isn’t exciting enough already, we are also putting the finishing touches on our brand new Link Building Starter course which is getting ready to launch next week. The course contains the latest advice and guidance on link building in light of Google’s recent Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm changes and crack down on link networks. New and existing subscribers will be given access to this course for no additional charge. That’s right – access comes standard with all subscriptions.

If you’re not already a subscriber – what are you waiting for? You can sign up here.

In other news, we had our first ever student from Jamaica sign up yesterday, which means we now have Search Engine College students in 62 countries. How cool is that? See you in the virtual halls.

 

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