Nov 17, 2008

Linkbuilding Without Drama

This is a good article from SEOmoz. I've been in contact with someone who needs some linkbuilding, and I'm happy to do it (especially since I've got SOOOO much on my plate). So I've been checking out some new-fangled ways to build those all-important inbound links.

Here's a snippet from the article:

Matt Cutts' webspam team, a segment of Google's broader Search Quality division, has made their position on buying and selling links for the purposes of boosting search engine rankings reasonably clear over the past 3 years. The practice is anathema - viewed as unacceptable because it infringes on the engine's ability to use links as an editorial signal of importance for search rankings. Both manual penalties and algorithmic filtering are applied as solutions, damaging the rankings of sites that buy as well as the ability for sites who sell to pass on link equity.

Naturally, this has led many individuals, sites and businesses seeking higher rankings to employee tactics that are plausibly removed from the direct exchange of capital for links, and while link brokers and link sales still thrive, they do so in an ever-increasingly paranoid & underground realm so as not to risk discovery and devaluation. In this post, I'll walk through examples of some of the more valuable and directly applicable methods to leverage finances for link growth while dodging Google's webspam edicts.

It's a quick read, 8 easy things to try. Check it out.

SEO Shortcuts, or Plagarism

Only in college are we required to reinvent the wheel. What am I talking about? In this case SEO. For someone new like me, there's a strong inclination to scour competitor websites for keywords and phrases. Hit SpyFu with their url so I can get a little info on what the industry keywords are.

At times I feel guilty. But at other times, I recall the lessons I learned in business. A long time ago a boss told me, "someone already plowed this ground, why not take advantage?"

Which is powerful. Less powerful if you're lazy, because all you'll never come up with something on your own, or use your wits to refine something to perfection. A lot more powerful if you see it as a safe place to start and go on to develop better.

I bring this up because I saw this on mining the competition at Marketing Pilgrim:

SEOs will generally kick-off an optimization campaign by examining analytics, performing keyword research, checking on-page elements, analyzing links, and so on and so forth. However, there exists an extremely useful tactic that is often underutilized or left out completely from the SEO’s arsenal. What am I talking about? Ladies and gentleman, I present to you… Competitive intelligence.

What is competitive intelligence? As it relates to search marketing, I would define it as the process of performing research to gather information about your competitors’ websites and analyzing that data for the purpose of extracting methods used and formulating strategies that you may use to optimize your own website.

Competitive intelligence can open your eyes to many things, including:

  • What your competitors are doing.
  • How you compare to your competitors.
  • Predict what your competitors will be doing.
The article goes to look at keywords and link analysis as well.

So I don't feel so bad wanting to look at what the competitor is doing, as long as I'm going to use it as a base to improve. However, my college professors would have called it plagarizing.

From the Mouth of Google: Adobe Flash is Trackable

My instructor told me that the ability to track Flash was coming. And I believed him. And today is the day that Google and Adobe made the announcement.

From the Google Analytics Blog, trackable Flash (it's a gas, gas, gas-with apologies to the Stones):

Today, at the Adobe MAX Conference in San Francisco, in a joint collaboration with our friends at Adobe and a few ace third party developers, we announced a simplified solution for tracking Flash content for everyone, called Google Analytics Tracking For Adobe Flash.

Working at Google over the past couple of years, I've had the opportunity to work with with many of our top clients to implement Google Analytics, who have found the power to identify and analyze trends on their web sites highly useful. But, one of the most common implementation challenges has been tracking Flash content on their pages. In the past, Flash tracking was not provided out of the box, and every implementation had to be customized. Moreover, there was a lack of standards, and new developers who tracked Flash had to create their own processes to get it working. With this launch, tracking your Flash content has never been simpler.

With this, you may see a resurgance of the great big all-Flash sites. After all, Flash is really cool. And if you can track it, there's no reason to keep the creativity from going in that direction.

Anyway, check out the details at Google Analytics Blog

Nov 15, 2008

The Black Hats v. The Google SEO Guide

As you should know, Google came out with a guide for effective SEO. If you didn't hear about it, look down a few posts and check it out.

Well the black hats are none too impressed. From SEO Black Hat:

...What if, instead, we did a case study?

On the one hand we will take a new site and follow Google’s SEO Starter Guide to the letter. We will limit ourselves only to the techniques discussed therein. (Note: there is virtually nothing in the starter guide about link building).

On the other hand, we will take a new site and do the EXACT OPPOSITE of every point of Google’s Quality Guidelines.

So, in the 2nd case:

* We will Make the pages primarily for search engines, not for users. We will deceive our users and present different content to the search engines than we display to the users (known as cloaking)

* We will Embrace tricks intend to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is that we would never want a competitor to know what we are doing. Another test is “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” The answer will be an emphatic “NO!” on both points.

* We will participate in link schemes designed to increase our site’s Page Rank. In particular, we will link to other web spammers and “bad neighborhoods”.

* We will use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages.

* We will employ both hidden text and hidden links.

* We will cloak and use sneaky redirects.....

This is a topic thread to keep an eye on. If the guidelines were more an instruction manual for the average SEO to succeed, then it's a good thing as well. If by publishing the guidelines it means that Google is officially beginning to crack down on Black Hat SEO tactics, then it means a sea change for SEO. If black hat tactics are blocked and not allowed to succeed, then SEO has changed forever.

Nov 14, 2008

Windows Live Becoming a Social Network Dashboard?

I found this at IM Broadcast. Apparently it was posted in the wee hours of the morning. Looks like Microsoft may be trying to use Windows Live as a pseudo iGoogle for social sites.

Interesting. Now I'm going to go check this out!

Nov 12, 2008

A Statement from Google on Outbound Links

I would imagine that inbound links still have more weight, but it's good to see that outbound links get some cred. For bloggers, this is big. Yes, I need inbound links, but since this blog is an unpaid venture, I also need to spend my time on things that make me money.

From the office of Google:

...Relevant outbound links can help your visitors.
  • Provide your readers in-depth information about similar topics
  • Offer readers your unique commentary on existing resources
Thoughtful outbound links can help your credibility.
  • Show that you've done your research and have expertise in the subject manner
  • Make visitors want to come back for more analysis on future topics
  • Build relationships with other domain experts (e.g. sending visitors can get you on the radar of other successful bloggers and begin a business relationship)....
The key is in the word "thoughtful".

Google Makes SEO Easy-ier

One nice thing about this industry versus the printing industry (where I came from), is that the terms are pretty consistent and there's a ton of tools and help everywhere. What's better is that the information is not guarded by sales guys.

I say that after downloading Google's new Search Optimization Starter Guide. According to the Google Webmaster Central, it's the same manual used by internal sites like YouTube, Blogspot, etc. I would imagine that there's a more sophisticated version that may or may not be available to enterprise clients; but this is pretty damn good for where I'm at.

3 Excellent Site Comparison Tools

So I'm helping a friend with selecting a website design vendor. One of the things we're doing is to compare his current site with others in his market, rate it, and generally get an idea of what the Googlebots think of what he has now.

Tonight I found a great article in Search Engine Journal about comparison sites. Complete with links to 3 tools, I'm now ready to take different looks at his site. The cool thing is that these tools can and will help establish what we want in a new site, as well as measure what the vendor provides us.

From the article:

There are a handful of SEO and web marketing competitive research tools on the market (see online seo tools) which gauge the value and marketability of a site by reviewing and delivering a mini-site audit which grades a site based on its basic SEO parameters and those of its competition.

Website Grader by HubSpot and SEObook’s Website Health Check are two common and free tools used by many webmasters and industry novices to get an idea of the value of a site. Another which has just been launched is ReviewMyWeb, which according to the site : Stacks you up against your competitors on Google, Yahoo, Blogs, and other key channels like Web 2.0, SEO, PPC, Social News, Blogs and much more.

Click on the links, the tools rock.

Nov 10, 2008

How To Pursuade Buyers Online

Again, from Rise to the Top blog. It's a good article on something that I know more about in the bricks and mortar world than in the virtual. So I'll reserve any snarky comments because of that ignorance.

But then again I'm in the midst of "Semmersion", my own path of total immersion into search engine marketing. Here's a snippet from Rise to the Top on how to sell people on your product online:

Show Them The Trend – Show What Others Like To Do

The finicky mind often plays an important role while making a buy. People often tend to look at what others are doing. The more number of people doing the same thing means greater comfort level they have in buying. The psychological phenomenon is called ‘Social Proof’. This means decisions are often based on the reactions or doings in mass. The feeling of the buyer is that his knowledge is bettered by knowing others are buying too.

1. What can you showcase as ‘Social Proof’? Here are some ways to establish yourself.

  • Show a ‘most popular items’
  • ‘People who bought this also liked…’ (go to Amazon!)
  • Top selling items testifying the product or service

2. Online ‘User-Generated’ Reviews

Another method of guaranteeing an online purchase is to have reviews and ratings for products or services on your website. User generated reviews have a great impact on the minds of the buyers. In the age of Web 2.0 and social media and networks like Facebook this is one of the most popular ways to promote your product or service.

It’s a good way to have reviews and ratings on your website. After all; it’s a FREE way to promote your products/services, isn’t it?

Reviews on a website have to be open, clear and true.

For more on how to sell people online, without resorting to trechery, click here.

Yahoo Adds ZIP-level Targeting to Local Search

From Rise to the Top blog:

Yahoo Sponsored Search Advertisers can display ads by individual zip code targeting. In a recent announcement through the Yahoo Search Marketing Blog, Yahoo revealed the news of their new, more precise geo-targeting choice for search advertisers. This new option will give you the opportunity to have your ads displayed by zip code targeting, whereas previously advertisers could only mass target the whole states and/or DMA’s (Designated Marketing Areas). Geo targeting is pivotal to the continued existence of many businesses. More and more advertisers are looking for niches and sometimes that is a regional niche. This addition has positioned Yahoo! along with, the lone search engine to offer specific zip level based targeting facility to advertisers.

Though Google AdWords doesn’t offer exact ZIP codAccording to Yahoo Communications Manager Kastle Waserman -"Our new geo-targeting system is designed to help you hit the bullseye with your ads every time! "e targeting, it does let advertisers to use ZIP codes as the basis for ad targeting (’ads will show 20 miles around zip codes’) and lets advertisers choose custom target regions to display their ads (which could be chosen to go with ZIP codes).

For more on Yahoo's ZIP-level geo-targeting, click here.

Online Marketing Trends for 2009-Probably the First of Many Reports

As I was looking through my iGoogle sites this morning (well, I'm still looking through them), this was one of the first things to get my attention. Perhaps because it was a 2009 trend report, perhaps because it was free, perhaps a little of both.

It's from the Strange Corporation, and is a concise and easy read. Here's their take on RSS for 2009:

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an ideal platform for online marketing and communications as it provides marketers with 100% deliverability and a qualified audience. Having come through the early-adopter doldrums, RSS will most likely see a surge in uptake in 2009, moving into majority usage thanks largely to built-in support in the new IE 8 browser.

Strange view: There are three main advantages with RSS for both users and marketers: 1.) users only get data they’ve subscribed to, thereby avoiding any spam issues, 2.) users can increasingly select segmentation of newsfeeds so they only receive specific topic information, and 3.) the user can receive RSS newsfeeds in a plethora of ways – with their Internet browser, an email client, desktop or web aggregator or on a mobile or handheld. This freedom to receive the feed in any number of ways means the user is in control, making recipients a more qualified audience that those receiving email marketing.

I would have to agree. Partially because I know so little, partially because I know that RSS could be a way to further segment your customers. For retailers an RSS feed allows retailers to better target offers and products, and better insulate the overall customer base against unnecessary discounting. There are other reasons, but these were the first two to come to mind.

The other 15 trends are good, and the writing is easy to follow. Download it now, before they start charging $1000 for it.

Nov 9, 2008

Online Reputation Management

Good for companies, good for politicians

Using AdWords as a Source for New Keywords

After playing with AdWords for the trial campaigns I've been working on for this blog and for Collective Interest, I'm going to lean on this tool more.

I'm starting a new page on Collective Interest, called Collective Interest Green. I plan to use it as page/site to generate affiliate sales. I'm going to pack it full of content related to solar, hybrid and electric vehicles, and other topics related to alternative energy.

In reading a good article at Rise to the Top Blog, I plan to follow the post's advice and use AdWords to help me find more and better keywords. Their suggestions include:

  1. The Demographic Report shows the age and gender of the person viewing the site. Google Adwords has a new feature, demographic bidding. If the site knows the user’s age and gender you can gear or not gear your Google ads to a specific target group. The end result is you now have the power to direct your ads to a much more quality group. Yes you may have less clicks but your conversion leads will probably increase. I’ll explain another day how you can bid on a demographic group.
  2. The Geographic Report drills down to the city/town, province/state and country of the person who visited your site. This information is based on their IP address. What’s great about this report it is a quick way to verify if your ads are being seen in the city/country that your chose in your campaign settings. Say you are not sure which city to target your ads to, why don’t you start at the national level for a month. Use the Geographic report to zone in to which cities are clicking your ads. You can adjust your campaign settings to the most converting cities!
  3. The Search Query Report gives you the exact work or group of words used when completing a Google Search. This is my personal favourite report. In addition to the keyword used you will also view the Google Ad Text and your destination URL for each impression, click and conversion. The detailed report will let you see at a glance which keywords and ads are converting. There are times your client will ask you have a split landing page or ad. With this report you are able to determine what type of traffic From here you are able to adjust your keywords and ads for better conversions.

So over the course of next week, check out Collective Interest Green. If you see anything intriguing, please click. I need the $$$

Using Social Media


Nov 6, 2008

Google Launches AdPlanner (today's new toy)

This is a bit dated, but it looks cool for me-the newbie. From Ad Operations Onilne, June 2008, Google's newest way to help you put together a successful advertising plan:

As promised in my previous post announcing the launch of AdPlanner, here are more updates following the official announcement on the Google AdWords blog.

The tool is supposed to address the challenges in scaling a campaign’s reach while still keeping it relevant for the target audience. To quote the original announcement: To work with the Google Ad Planner, “simply enter demographics and sites associated with your target audience, and the tool will return information about sites (including the ones in the Google content network and monetized through the AdSense program) that your audience is likely to visit. You can drill down further to get more detail like demographics and related searches for a particular site, or you can get aggregate statistics for the sites you’ve added to your media plan.”

What’s most interesting is that this launch seems to be well-timed to the launch of Google Trends for Websites last week, even though they claim the AdPlanner is build around the needs of media planners.

I've already been to the site, bookmarked it, and will play with it later today.

Top 15 Takeaways for Creating Successful Keyword Campaigns

Here's the thing. We all want to hit the ground running in search marketing. We all want to immediately start working on driving clicks to a website. But, depending on where we're at, our ability to do that may be mitigated by circumstance.

So if you have a blog, start working to make your blog rise in natural search. But you may find, as I have, that blogs respond better to paid campaigns.

So set a small budget and start managing paid campaigns for it. Start another blog and try to use it as a test platform for the things you read about as well as your own wild-hare ideas.

Here's something from the good folks at Yahoo, a few of the high points on 15 steps to a successful keyword campaigns:

You can create up to 20 campaigns. You should create a separate campaign if you want to geo-target to a specific area, if you want to separate your budget, or if you have a seasonal/limited-time-only promotion or sale that you want to track and promote. Even if you don't immediately plan to do these things, it's still a best practice to separate your account into campaigns.

For example, let's say you are a jeweler and you want to separate the budgets for your silver sales from your gold sales. You also want to geo-target your jewelry campaigns to the west coast separately from the east coast to create more relevant ads. To achieve this, you would create four separate campaigns. You might name them "west coast silver jewelry", "east coast silver jewelry", "west coast gold jewelry" and "east coast gold jewelry". You could specify a budget for each.

Content Match® and Sponsored Search:
Content Match allows your ads to be displayed on contextual partner sites based on the content of your ads (among other factors). Sponsored Search allows your ads to be displayed in response to searches on your keyword.

There's also a link to a pretty good Yahoo Search webinar on the topic as well.

Nov 4, 2008

Ideas on Building Links from a Startup POV

Good article on how to start a link building campaign for a startup company. This could be valuable if you had a new product/service you were rolling out and depending on the web for reach. It also might be of value if you were new to SEM/SEO and were looking for tactics on how to start linkbuilding for your own blog or consultantsy.

Anyway, here's a snippet on linkbuilding from scratch, as seen in Search Engine Journal:

We see web 2.0 start-ups pop up daily, and naturally we often have to deal with promoting them. Link building from scratch can be both challenging and exciting but it’s good to know where to start.

Consider adding a resource to start-up blogs - it’s a good way to promote a buzz, especially if your start-up has some innovative features to offer. Most of these blogs are followed by other bloggers seeking new post topic ideas who will grab it and promote further....

...Do your homework: learn how other successful startups were once launched....
Check the article out. Short in length, long in depth, with lots of links to the meat of what the author is saying.

Nov 3, 2008

Rethinking the "About Us" Page

If there's ever a page that is seen as PC, it's the "About Us" page. I never go there, unless I have to while looking for something else I can't find. Usually it's a page of corporate blather, or somebody's ego on display. Often they're just boring, like the guy at a party who's just shy of having one too many. He's funny once he's loaded, but boring until then.

The people at the Rise to the Top Blog have a few ideas on making the About Us page worthwhile:

A nicely constructed ‘About Us’ page can put a human element to your company when compared to the other technical or procedural pages on your site. A craftily written page can encourage some serious buying decisions to certain visitors. You can carve out a customer- centric content for your ‘about us’ by following questions that customer want answers to:
# Why your company?
# How is your company structured?
# What kind of company am I dealing with?
# What is the goal of your company?
# Why would I deal with you?
# How are you different from others?
# Why should I trust you?
If I were working, I'd try some of these ideas. Can't hurt. Because what's on a lot of these "About Us" pages is pretty much horse-hooey.

Length of the Perfect Textlink, and More

Being new, I see people do things online , I hear what should be done from instructors, and I read what should be done on the web.

Needless to say, it's all confusing. So for me, and I hope most people, I look for information that solves problems first. Even better is the information comes with a test to prove their point.

So from, here's some info on a test their people did to try to determine the optimal length of a text link.

Shaun Anderson created a long text link with 50 nonsense words. Each of the nonsense words was 6 characters long. For example, he might have used a link like this:

wergsd woivsd mliwdc woiuby 3245sc plorxc werxcd ...

Then he added that link to the home page of a website that has good rankings on Google.

After some time, Shaun did a search for a keyword that the linked website ranked number one for and added the nonsense words to the search. By doing so, Google would only list the site in the search results if links to the site contained the nonsense word.

For example, if a website has a number one ranking for "buy used cars in dallas" then the website will only be returned by Google for "buy used cars in dallas wergsd" if Google has indexed a link with the text "wergsd" that points to the website.

Check out the rest of the page. Not only is there the answer to text link conundrum, there's also some good stuff on click fraud, and what's more important to rankings-inbound links or content?

Welcome to Semmersion

I'm Sebastian James. I'm new to SEM/SEO. I'm making a career transition from print production. I've been blogging since 2003, and have always been fascinated on how to build and grow website traffic.

After being let go from a lucrative marketing project management job with a leading luxury retailer, I decided (after some prodding, if you ask my wife) to change careers after 20 years and move into search engine marketing.

I spent over 10 years in print production managment at a top automotive accessories and parts cataloger. Here I learned more about why the internet can be a powerful weapon to bring in new customers and reignite the interest of current ones. I figure I combine new knowledge with broad experience and move into this relatively new world of search engine marketing.