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All About Anchor Text – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Welcome to our first Whiteboard Friday of the new year. It's 2012 and we're going to kick it off by examining the intricacies that revolve around anchor text. Although, this may seem like a very basic topic, we are going to cover some lesser known aspects of anchor text that is sure to satisfy even our more advanced SEOs. Enjoy and don't forget to leave your comments below!

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Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Happy New Year. This is the first Whiteboard Friday of 2012, and today we're talking about anchor text, which could seem like a basic topic. But, in fact, there are a lot of intricacies that we should cover. Let's get right to them.

What I have drawn here is a web page, and it says, "I just found this great website on Portuguese cooks. You should check it out." Now, this, this text in blue with the underline, that links somewhere, and that link points to another page. Let's say it's a page over here, a very nice page on Portuguese cooks. It has some pictures on it. I don't know what it's got.

What it's saying to the engines is not only eye this page and this website, I'm voting for this other page over here, and I want to pass over some PageRank and link juice. I want to pass over trust. I want to pass over the domain diversity, whatever the signals, the keyword agnostics signals are, but I also want to say that I particularly like this web page about Portuguese cooks. That's what I think you, search engine, should interpret and take away from it.

Of course, this anchor text with the keyword embedded in it becomes a very strong signal to search engines, and as we all know, this is one of the strongest signals that Google and Bing interpret, Bing maybe even stronger than Google. Because of this, lots of people go down a path of trying to acquire links that say the precise keyword that they want.

Of course, this is a challenge because most natural links on the Web don't generally do this. They will say things like your brand name. They might say something about your site. They might use your personal name, if they're linking to a blog or something. But it's rare, it's uncommon that they might say "Audi 87 engine parts for sale" or "best deals on holiday gifts." These types of anchor texts, the things that people search for, longer phrases, in particular, are very hard to get as natural links, and this is one of the biggest reasons that gray and black hat SEO exist because manipulating the search engines by acquiring lots of links that have these keyword matches pointing to your page can, in fact, do a great job of ranking you up, at least temporarily until the engines catch up and do something bad to you or to the people linking to you.

What I want to cover is some intricacies around this, some details that you may or may not know about anchor text, and those include: Number one, multiple anchors from the same page "do not" provide more value. What I mean by this is if this page said I just found this great website on Portuguese cooks, you should check it out and a bunch of other text, and then it said Portuguese cooks again and linked over to this page, not helpful. It does not add additional value. There is no reason that you should be going, "Oh man, I wish I could get four anchor text match links from this web page." No, that's not going to help you.

Multiple web pages will help you, but if they're from the same domain, that's not nearly as valuable as if they're from different domains. That leads us to the next thing, diversity of anchor text, diversity of the source. The root domain source of the anchor text links provides the strongest benefit, meaning if you can get lots and lots of websites, not just individual web pages but different unique web domains, linking to you saying "Portuguese cooks," chances are good this web page will do very well.

Number three, the fluctuating anchor text. This is something that people talk about all the time. They don't just talk about diversity of the link location across different domains, but they talk about diversity of anchor text itself, meaning, "Oh, I should have one that says Portuguese cooks and one that says Portuguese cooking and one that says cooks from Portugal. I'm going to vary up the anchor text a lot."

I'm a little skeptical about this, not because it's not potentially useful, and it should be a natural thing if you're going out and doing white hat types of link building and inbound marketing. But because the primary reason I think most SEOs do this is so as to not trigger pattern matching problems in the engines, meaning if every website that's linking to me says Portuguese cooks, that's suspicious, highly suspicious. That suspiciousness is the feature that people are trying to prevent.

So, I'm not so sure whether this fluctuation is all that important unless you're doing manipulative types of link building, in which case SEOmoz is not all that helpful for you. So, you're probably not watching this video.

Number four, the first anchor text in the HTML of a page is what Google counts, Bing as well. This was discovered on SEOmoz a couple of years ago. We ran some tests about it. We published the results. There was a lot of skepticism. I think Debra Mastaler from Alliance-Link wrote about it and said, "Hey, Matt Cutts, would you please confirm this?" And he did. He came out and said, "Yeah, that's how we interpret it".

So, basically, here's what's going on. If you see a web page and it says this website is awesome, it features highlights of great Portuguese cooks, now look, these two links are both pointing to the same page. I don't know why my handwriting is so terrible in 2012. I hope that repairs itself soon. That means not that the website is going to get credit for the anchor text website and the anchor text Portuguese cooks, but rather they are going to consider the anchor text website and ignore Portuguese cooks.

It's very frustrating, and something that you should think about when you're doing internal linking and you say, "Oh, yeah, we should optimize this link." If it's already in your menu, if it's already at the top of the page somewhere in a side bar and that's higher up in the HTML code, then that is what the engine is going to count. So, do be aware of that and same goes for anything that you're earning externally. If you've got the optimized anchor text for your website in the footer of the blog post where it talks about the author, Rand Fishkin is the CEO of SEOmoz, an SEO tools company, but I've already link to SEOmoz's home page somewhere in the blog post above, that "SEO tools company," that's not going to help anything. That's going to be discounted by the engines.

Number five, internal anchor text, meaning anchor text that comes from your own site, your own pages, it does help. It helps a tiny bit. You can see a little bit of benefit from that. I wouldn't focus on it too much because tiny is a small amount. That's probably the most obvious statement I've ever made on Whiteboard Friday. But nevertheless, tiny, small amount, therefore don't focus too much energy on this. Link naturally, internally. Link in such a way that people think your site is good, and, yeah, if you can work in your anchor text, great.

External anchor text is where it really helps, meaning websites that are not your own linking to you. That's where you really get value from anchor text, and you do need to worry about this a little bit. There should be some manual efforts, some efforts, whether that's guest posting and blogging, whether that's sponsoring an event, whether that's getting your biography featured or something like that, getting a badge embedded somewhere or a graphic embedded somewhere that links back to you in a certain way, you do need that anchor text link match. So, working on at least a little of that external anchor text is definitely worthwhile.

Number six, if a link uses an image, like this, so check out this awesome site on Portuguese cooks, and then here's a little screen shot of the Portuguese cooks website, and this is linking over. I tried to illustrate that in blue. This does not have any anchor text. It's an image. So what could the anchor text possibly be?

The answer is they use the Alt attribute. The engines use the Alt attribute that becomes the anchor text usually, not always. If there is no Alt attribute, sometimes they'll use something like the surrounding text, and you can sort of see and feel that association. Sometimes, they'll use page titles. Sometimes, they won't use anything, but they'll have weaker signals from those other areas of the page, that kind of thing.

If you are embedding images and you're linking back to yourself or you're getting links from somewhere or you're linking out to someone, you want to help them out, use good Alt attributes that describe the page that you're linking to. This is a great best practice just in general for screen readers and usability reasons. It's also good for search engines.

Then finally, number seven, no surprise, surrounding text can matter as well. Just as in this example where we said, "Hey, Portuguese cooks is mentioned right before the image," the engines may be using surrounding text of an anchor, particularly where the anchor itself doesn't have much value or context.

If something says, "Click here, you'll find some great information about Portuguese cooks," the engines might sort of glance around the page and look at the sentence, parse the paragraph, try and understand, "Hey, what do you think they're talking about here? What seems relevant?" This is one of the reasons why you can see that people who have earned not necessarily great anchor text can rank very well for keywords because it's often talked about. That topic is talked about when their website is talked about, and it becomes a brand association thing. It becomes a contextual association thing. This is a helpful thing to think about if you are earning links and you can't control the anchor text. Maybe, at least, you can get them to mention what you do somewhere near the link.

All right, everyone. I hope this edition of Whiteboard Friday has been helpful. I look forward to discussing more details about anchor text in the comments and hope to see you again all next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Happy New Year! Take care.

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Using Social Media Monitoring as an Inbound Marketing Channel – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Kenny Martin

In this week's special end of the year Whiteboard Friday, Rand shows us how to attract customers and accelerate our marketing efforts by using social media monitoring. Learning how to effectively build up relationships without spamming will be the key to your success in the social realm. We hope you had a wonderful 2011 and don't forget to leave your comments below.

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This is our special end of year edition. I hope all of you had a great holiday season and are about to have a great New Year's. It's been fantastic spending 2011 with you, and I cannot wait for 2012. It's going to be incredible.

Today I want to talk a little bit about using social media monitoring specifically as an inbound marketing channel, as a way to attract customers and to accelerate your marketing efforts in all sorts of ways. Let me talk briefly about some background on this so you understand where I'm coming from.

Let's imagine that you're They make great holiday cards – Geraldine, my wife, and I use them to do our holiday cards recently – and they do some branded stuff. So they have searches, keywords that come to them that are branded – things like minted, and minted cards, and minted notebooks, and custom photo cards from Minted. We think about those as being keywords in their brand wheelhouse, that are about their brand.

But then they also have lots of unbranded terms, things that they want to try and capture, definitely from an SEO perspective, but other perspectives as well. So these are things like people who want holiday photo cards, who want Christmas cards, Xmas cards, Hanukah cards, custom notebook. They sell notebooks and all sorts of other things. So all those product types of searches, those things that would get you into their funnel, maybe not their brand specifically, but all those sorts of keywords, we often think about them, at least in the world of SEO, as being exclusively from a search engine type in perspective. But there's a social perspective on this too, and that's what I want to cover in this Whiteboard Friday.

So you can image there are channels, right? So there are things like SEO and PPC. People search for these words, and we want to try to come up in the organic results and in the paid search results. But then there are also channels like Q&A and forums, and blog posted content where they're talking about these items. There are questions on a Q&A board. There are questions on a forum. There's a discussion happening. There's a blog post with content that's saying, "Here's the best custom notebooks and why I like each of these vendors," those types of things. Those are conversations they might want to be part of.

Then there are the very specific social mentions. When you think about this, think about doing a search on Twitter, probably the most common way that social mentions are thought about, doing a search on Twitter for either your brand name, for people who are talking about or mentioning the word "minted," and then people who are talking about or mentioning the words "Xmas cards", "Hanukah cards", "Christmas cards", "custom notebooks", "photo cards", "holiday cards." When people do those mentions on social networks, you can see them as a social media manager, as an inbound marketer, as an SEO. You can see where those people are mentioning them, who those people are, and then you have the potential to reach out to them, and that can present some powerful things.

So these social media monitoring tactics are what I want to cover specifically. I've got four here, but there's tons more that you can certainly imagine. It's a powerful and largely untapped channel, but it can be a little bit dangerous. I'll talk about that as well.

So first off, if you're monitoring these types of unbranded terms, this is a great way to identify and connect with influencers. What I mean by identify is also understand them. What I feel like a lot of people do when they get into marketing in a new channel or around a new topic, a new keyword, or a new product is that they don't even understand what the world looks like, what the Web looks like, from that perspective. People who are in this world who are talking about these on blogs and forums, who are tweeting about this stuff, who are experts in this field, who are journalists, who are consumers, you're not in their world yet, but this is a great way to learn who the influencers are and start to build up those relationships.

So a great way to do this, of course, is monitoring these types of things and looking for those actual retweets in the search box inside Twitter or Google+. You can do this with Google+ public mentions as well. But there are tools to do it too. FollowerWonk is one of my favorites. You could also use FindPeople on Plus, which has a database where you can literally search for bios and say, "Hey, who's writing about gifts or Xmas? Who's a blogger? Who's writing about photo cards? Who's writing about customized paper products? Who's writing about holiday gifts? Who is an expert on, for example, kids' stuff or kids' toys?" Or those things that are ancillarilly related. Ancillarilly is not a word, but I'm going to use it anyway.

So there are things around these worlds that might be connections. So this could be, "Oh, I want to find who the writers are for magazines. I want to find who is the media person at the 'Today Show. I want to find who it is that blogs regularly about gifts and lifestyle types of blogs." All those things are things that you can use, services like FollowerWonk or FindPeople on Plus to discover those influencers and learn more about the segment while you're at it. Now this is a very research intensive process, but it means that you will be so much more effective with the content that you produce, with how you market that content and how you target it, and with who you reach out to. If you've built connections, natural connections, I'm talking about Tweeting back and forth, sort of getting them to follow you or earning their trust, sharing good things with them over time, then you can sort of share more promotional stuff, like, "Hey, so and so @Ranfish, I wrote this blog post. I'm emailing you to see if you would maybe want to share it on Twitter. It seems like the kind of thing you usually like to tweet about." And I'll be like, "Oh sure, of course, I actually really like that piece. That was a great piece. I'm going to tweet it." I did that two times this morning from emails. Please don't all email me with things that you need me to tweet. That would get a little overwhelming. But if you have something hyper-relevant, sure.

You can also do things like reaching out directly, but be really careful here. I'm sure you've all seen this on Twitter. So the idea is that you see someone mention the word Xmas cards, and then you reach out to them via Twitter and send them an at reply even though you're not following them and you may not have a pre-existing relationship. Let me show you two ways to do this and why this can be super dangerous.

So here is my sample Twitter friend Mobit, and Mobit has tweeted, "Crap! Forget to get Xmas cards, need to do that tonight." "Hmm, excellent, I'm thinking of my evil ways in which I will market to him." If this is your attitude, you might be going and following this black line and tweeting back to him, at everyone, including Mobit, anyone who says the words "Xmas cards", "Here is a bland spammy marketing message." I see this all the time where I tweet a specific word, and then I'll get a reply and I'll look at it and go, "Oh, they're just trying to sell me something because I mentioned that word." My favorite example of this that's not super spammy, it used to be the case that if you tweeted "honey badger," the honey badger @honeybadger would reply with, "Don't care." Now that was cute and funny. It could get old because you could see thousands of tweets coming from this clearly bot account that was just tweeting, "Don't care."

But those types of messages, that's not going to work very well. Twitter is going to catch you out on it. Remember there is a little flag thing over here that people will click, and they'll flag your message for spam. They'll flag your account for spam. Twitter reviews those pretty quickly. They don't want their service filled up with this, which means that you need to do something that is creative, insightful, personalized, and authentic.

So for example, at Mobit, "If you need help, give me a shout. Also, here's a 20% off coupon." This is going to be an extremely different tweet than what I send to maybe somebody else who does that. If we're talking about Xmas cards and there are 50 mentions an hour of these and I'm sending tweets to all 50 of them, that's still going to look spammy and manipulative. But if there are two or three of them that are very specific and say, "I specifically forgot about Christmas cards. I need my Xmas cards. I need my Hanukah cards," whatever it is, then great. That is something where a customized, personalized message, and especially if you do something like follow them or check out their other tweets and say something relevant to them, recognize what part of the country they're in, "Oh, you're in Alaska. By the way, we still do free shipping to Alaska." "Wow, cool! You know who I am. You care about me. Your message is authentic. It's personalized. It's insightful. I'll receive it graciously and happily." But you have to be careful about this type of outreach. It can be a great way to attract customers, particularly in certain segments. It can be a great way even to share content or share links if you trying to get sort of mentioned or retweeted by someone, or if you're trying to get additional awareness or attention, not even necessarily someone directly, but it can be dangerous.

Number three, this one's a little less dangerous, but you still have to maintain all of those same attributes in mind for the messaging you do, which is reaching out privately. So I'll do this actually on occasion where I'll see a Twitter user or I'll see someone at Google+ and they'll mention something specific and I'll say, "You know what? I look at their bio and I see that they work at . . ." I saw this recently for someone who worked at a social media marketing agency here in Seattle, and I thought, "You know what? I would love to have someone from that agency look at some of the new products that we're building, and therefore maybe I can get them into the office and do a product review with the team. So I'm going to tweet back at them." Then I saw them out at an event, actually, and I got their business card and I emailed them.

So those types of relationship building are a great way to go, particularly if you're doing more of a one-to-one type of business development. This private thing, using DM, going out and digging up their email address from their website, from their LinkedIn profile, connecting on there, getting an introduction to someone, those are all perfectly legitimate ways, and they're a little less exposing you to the sort of dangers of being flagged as a spammer. But you can do this authentically, and you have to do this one authentically as well.

The fourth and final one that I'm going to talk about, which I like a tremendous amount, is finding content that's being referenced, right? So people are tweeting. Let me give you another example. Here's our friend Mobit again, and he says, "Oh, you know there were some great Xmas cards suggestions on LifeHacker today." "Hmm, LifeHacker, you say." I know what to do. I'm going to go over and I'm going to check out the site where these folks are mentioning, and I'm going to see what is that content? Does it mention me? If not, does it mention my competitors? Is it talking about the right stuff? Does it seem like it's in a field where I might potentially be able to contribute guest content, make a direct suggestion, "Hey, by the way, editors at LifeHacker, did you know Minted also offers this? We loved to be mentioned next time you guys do a roundup of customizable photo holiday cards." Cool, right? Maybe they'll pick it up, maybe they won't. If you do a few of those and you build those connections the right way, you can link in to those editors and journalists, those writers.

You can connect via comment marketing. By comment marketing I mean, again, leaving good comments on a consistent basis, finding the blogs you want to follow, doing it in an authentic way. Otherwise you can get into serious trouble. But getting familiar with those channels is a great way to discover opportunities for your content to reach additional audiences. It's also a fantastic way to see which content performs well, which is a question that a lot of people who do any kind of inbound marketing, SEO, social, blogging, whatever you're doing, you're trying to figure out what content's going to perform well. This is a great way to figure that out through social media monitoring. Of course, then you can go back and earn the links, the mentions, the press that you're seeking.

All right, everyone, I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you had a fantastic 2011 and that your 2012 is just as good or better. I hope we'll see you again next week. Take care.

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8 Things You Can Give Away to Earn Links + Mentions – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Kenny Martin

Happy Holidays Everyone! It's that time of year again and Rand gets into the giving spirit with this year's special edition of Whitebeard Friday. Presented here are 8 generous tips that will encourage you to get into the holiday spirit of giving yourself. Please enjoy and don't forget to leave your comments below!

Video Transcription

Ho, ho, ho. Welcome to this year's special edition of Whitebeard Friday. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukah. Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate. Festivus (the "Airing of Grievances"). Whatever you are celebrating this holiday season, I hope you're having a wonderful one. Welcome to the special edition of Whitebeard Friday. Every year I put on this ridiculous getup, and hopefully none of you who celebrate Christmas mind Jewish people like me wearing Santa Claus outfits. I apologize if I've offended anyone. But I have, you can see, drawn a Christmas tree with a Fesitvus pole in the middle and a Star of David. Huh, huh? A little cross-cultural segment there.

All right. This week on Whitebeard Friday I am talking about, I was originally talking about 12, to emulate the 12 days of Christmas, but it wouldn't fit on the whiteboard. So we're doing eight, eight things you can do, you can give away, to earn links and mentions to help your marketing efforts. Obviously, Christmas, the season of giving away. Even when I was a kid, my parents celebrated Christmas. My parents with my whitebeard. I was very, very young. This was like the 17th century. We want to talk today about some of those great methods of things you can give away as part of the holiday season, the giving season, and earn back great things for your marketing.

So, number one, your writing. This is a pretty obvious one, right? When you guest post for someone, when you guest comment, when you leave your written work or allow others to publish it, that earns you links back, links and references back. And I have a pro tip for each of these. So the pro tip here, make a search like this – you see this tiny writing here – "guest author," guest plus author or write or blogger or contributor, if you use that plus the word "blog" or the word "news" or your keywords, you will find posts that contain this stuff. Another pro tip, use Google blog search and Google discussion search. Both of those are great at providing this kind of stuff.

Number two, your videos. See, we're doing a video right now. Do you feel this wonderful video content? The pro tip here is use Wistia. I believe both Wistia and – people are walking by in the SEOmoz offices and think this looks hilarious – use Wistia or I believe Vimeo Pro also does this. When you put your videos up, if you'll notice the embed link for this video in particular, which I think maybe it's in the right-hand corner, that corner, that corner, one of the corners, the embed point will actually point back to your site, which is phenomenally great because it means when other people embed the video, you control the anchor text and the link of where it points back to.

Number three, your product. Whatever it is that you sell, whatever it is that you make, whatever it is that you do, you could have a service, giving that away often earns you links and references in return. Pro tip, be careful of those direct giveaways. If you say, "Hey, here's the product, I want a link back," that can get you into trouble. But if you instead use events, or charity, or sponsorship, or you give it away without a request and ask and people cover it, that's an organic and natural link, an editorial link. That can work for you.

Number four, very similar, your time. Donate and dedicate your time, like me, Father Christmas by helping people out, donating what it is that you do best. If you are a marketer, that could be helping other people with your marketing. If you are a consultant, it could be doing consulting work. If you are helping people in business or you are an expert in a particular realm or product, helping those people do those things, accomplish those things. Finding people who you know have needs in that area and giving it away can help you earn good will, and then that brings links back to your site and references back to your site. A wonderful way to give and receive.

Number five, this is something I hate when marketers don't do this. Give away your contact details. What I mean here is when you are participating out on the Web and you are hoping to earn links and references back, make your contact details public, make them easy to find, make sure that there's not a big challenge here. Make it clear you are open to contributing and helping and participating and that you hope that by doing these things you spread your brand. This will invite people to email you, to tweet at you, to link to you, to reference you when they are seeking contributors to these types of things. Contact details, by the way, also important to make sure that those are easily accessible and findable from your site and anywhere you do participate.

Number six, your photos, your images, or your graphics. The pro tip here, have an images or photos section on your site if you can, especially if you have a large media library, and then make sure it is open to licensing in exchange for a link. You can use the creative comments licensing, you can create your own licensing, you can create little things that make it easy to embed any of your images or any of your graphics and earn that link back. By the way, another pro tip on this, if someone is using your images, or you suspect that they are, use Google's similar images link inside. Here, I'll show you right here. Let's say I have just done a search for an image, and I have clicked on that image. Now you're going to see the image here, and there is a little X, and then Google has a sidebar over here with some links after I have clicked it, and one of those is "similar images." If you click on "similar images," that will show you other images like this one, oftentimes, people who have taken your image but haven't given you credit. You can then reach out to them and be like, "Hey, what's the deal?" Does it look weird having Santa kind of give a . . .

Number seven, your full feed, your full RSS feed. The pro tip here is, especially, this is important to not go partial feed but to go full feed when you're giving RSS because lots of people will republish that, lots of people will reference it, email it, subscribe, etc. Great for marketing. And pro tip, use absolute links. Don't use /blog whatever. Use www.mysite, the full link, because when it gets referenced on other sites, it will point back to you and that link will count and pass value.

Number eight, last but not least, your data. Undoubtedly, if you're doing interesting things in the world of product, of marketing, of customer research, of embedding yourself in a community, you are collecting valuable, super cool data. A great way to do this is to first build a list of likely writers, people who you think would be interested in the data you're providing. This could be white paper kinds of data. It could be research and survey data. It might be data you've generated from all the users of your product or from whatever it is that you're collecting. And then reach out. Before you have it, reach out and ask if they want access. By doing that, you create this wonderful confirmation, because you said, "Hey, Dear Writer, Do you want access to this cool data that we've got? Would you like to share? Would you be interested? Would your customers be interested? Would your readers be interested?" A lot of the time they'll say, "Yes, I would be interested. Please do share that with me." If you instead just reach out and say, "Hey we have this cool data," you get a lot of ignores. But if you first reach out and say, "Hey, Kenny, I know you write on the SEOmoz blog. Would you be potentially interested in some data about the social media marketing field?" Kenny will be like, "Hmm, yeah, that's sounds interesting. Send it over to me." Then you send it over and say, "Hey, we'd love if you could at least tweet or share it, and if you blog about it, that'd be even better." This is a great way of making sure they get your data and then link to you.

All right, everyone, I hope you've enjoyed this silly edition of Whitebeard Friday. It's been a fantastic year. Hope you have a great holiday, and we will see you again next week. Yes, even between Christmas and New Year's we're going to be doing Whiteboard Friday. See you next week for another edition. Take care.

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Advanced On-Page Optimization – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Kenny Martin

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand goes into depth on how you can optimize your on-page content. Presented here are five advanced tactics that get you thinking beyond the basics of traditional page optimization and set you up to start creating content that's both relevant and unique.

How do the phrases on your page relate to one another? Does your page content make your visitors happy? By moving beyond simply making sure those title tags are optimized and scattering a few keywords around, we can produce intelligent content that's not only engaging but gets better rankings too.

As promised, here is a Quora thread that describes Google's use of Machine learning.

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we're talking about advanced on-page optimization. Specifically, I have five tactics for you that go beyond the traditional "I'm going to put my keyword in the title tag. I'm going to put my keyword in the URL", those kinds of things.

First one, starting out is this idea of semantic connectivity. We talked about this in the past. We did some research a couple of years ago, maybe 18 months ago on LDA, which is latent Dirichlet allocation, which, of course, is a form of topic modeling that we suspected Google might be using.

It's a way to imagine the connections between words in a particular language. I'll give you an example. Here is the word "cat", and the word "cat" is probably closely related to the word "feline". If you were a search engine and you saw a document with the word "cat" and the word "feline," you would think that document is more relevant to a query for the word "cat" than a document that has the word "cat" and the word "whiteboard," which maybe that would be very far away.

Here's cat and here's canine. Those are much more distant, but cat is relatively closer to tiger, but it's even a little closer to meow. So, you get this sense of, ah, the search engines have a graph of all the words in a language set, how they're connected to each other, what's relevant to what, phrases not just individual words but the two or three or four word phrases.

This kind of thing can be very helpful if you're looking at a document and you're saying to yourself, "Boy, I talked about cats, but I forgot to mention anything about what they eat or what family they're in or what they're related to. I didn't even use the word 'pets.' Maybe, I should be optimizing for those types of things." Employing those closely connected terms can help to boost the relevancy and help boost your rankings.

Second thing on the list, block level optimization. There is a great YOUmoz post about this that we promoted to the main blog recently talking about precisely this type of thing where search engines will essentially analyze individual portions of a page. They'll look at, oh, here's a sidebar and we've decided that's not really relevant because that's navigational links or here's the top nav. We're not going to analyze that for relevancy as much potentially. We're going to look at the header of the document, where the headline is, those first few sentences. We're going to look at the middle of the document, maybe in paragraph forms, the footer of the document, the end. Are all of those things talking about the topic? Are they all on the subject, or is this something that starts out talking about tigers, but it eventually gets into a discussion on genetically modified foods? If that's the case, maybe it's less relevant to tigers. It's just that the initial headline looked like it was relevant to tigers, and so therefore, we don't want to rank this document for the word, tigers. We might even want to be ranking it for something like genetically modified foods. It just happens to use that catchy title.

So, make sure that your document . . . do this kind of check for all of these sections, making sure that they're pertinent, that they're relevant to the content of the query, that they're serving the visitor's interests and needs. If you have that kind of off topic diatribe, and I'm not saying you can't go off topic in your writing a little bit and explore some storyline themes, particularly if you have a long expository piece or you're writing a narrative blog post. That's great. I'm just saying, for stuff that is hyper targeting a particular keyword, especially for a commercial intent or a navigational intent, this might not be ideal. You might want to make those more focused.

Number three, internal and external links. I'm not talking about the links pointing to the page. I'm talking about the links that actually exist on the page. You remember some folks from Google have actually in the past said that, yeah, we might have some things, some first order or second order effect things in our algorithm that rewards people who link out, meaning link to other websites.

Marshall Simmons from The New York Times was on a Whiteboard Friday a couple of years ago, and Marshall talked about how when The New York Times changed their policy to put more external links on the page off to other websites, they actually saw increases and boosts in rankings from the articles that did that, strongly confirming what Google had said about there being some sort of effect in the algorithm, maybe not directly but indirectly looking at, hey, is this person linking out or are they linking out to good places? If they are, we might want to reward them.

Another optimization tactic that's on the more advanced side is putting good external links referencing relevant, potentially useful content on your pages. Linking out to other people is a wonderful thing too, because it puts you into the ecosystem. What I mean by that is if you link to someone else, other people go and visit that page. They might be talking about it. They might thank you for the reference. Someone might see that on Twitter. They might look in their analytics and see that you've sent visitors over and come check out your page and then link to something you've done. That reciprocation is very, very powerful in the organic web, and it can be useful, not only for this direct relevancy boosting signal, but also from a links perspective, from a traffic perspective.

Number four on the list, the happiness of visitors to a page. I know what you're thinking. It's sort of like, wait a minute, that's not on-page optimization. That's more like conversion rate optimization. Yes, but it matters for rankings because Google is looking so much at usage and user data.

I'm going to ask Kenny, who's filming this video, going to wave, Kenny? That's a great wave. Did you all see that? He looked great. It's amazing. I'll ask Kenny to put in a link to a Quora thread where a Google engineer, somebody who worked at Google, actually talked about how they use machine learning on user and usage data signals in the potential ranking algorithm to help better stuff come up when the rankings may be ordered normally just by their classic on-page link stuff and these types of things.

That means that if I can make visitors happier, if I can boost the value of what they're getting out of the pages, I can potentially rank higher too, not just convert more of them but even improve in rankings.

We were talking about things like: Are these visitors completing actions? Are they spending more time on this site or page on average with a good experience than they are with others? What I mean by this is it's not just, "Oh, my time on site is low. I need to find ways to keep visitors on there a longer time." Maybe, you have something that's answering a very, very short query in a short amount of time, and that's making visitors happy. And, maybe, you have something that's answering that query but after a long period of time, visitors are actually unhappy and they're going back to Google and clicking, you know what, block all results from this site, I don't want to see it any more. Or they see you in the rankings in the future, and they're like, "Oh, I remember that domain. I do not want to go through that again. They had those annoying ads and the overlays, and they blocked me from going there."

Every time I see Forbes, I was like, "Man, does this article look interesting enough to me to have to go through that initial screen of the ad, because I know I'm going to get it every time, and it's going to take extra time to load?" On my phone when I'm browsing the Web, I'm always like, "I'm not going to click on that Forbes link. Maybe I'll check it later on my laptop or my desktop."

Those types of things are signals that the engines can look at. Are people coming back? Are they returning again and again? When they see this stuff, true they've got 25% market share with Chrome. They've got the Google tool bar. They have Google free Wi-Fi. They have relationships with ISPs. So, they can get this data right about where everyone goes, not just from search but all over the Web. They know what you're bookmarking. They know what you're returning to. They know your visit patterns. This kind of stuff is definitely going to make its way into the algorithm, I think, even more so than it does today.

Fifth and finally, some content uniqueness and formatting. So, you're all aware of duplicate content issues, thin content issues, and the Panda stuff that happened earlier this year that affected a lot of websites. What you may not know is that there are a bunch of tactics that you can apply in an advanced on-page optimization scenario that can help, so things like completely unique. When I say "completely unique," what I mean is not that you can't quote someone in here, but just that what you can't have is a mad lib style SEO where you've got XY blank Z blank ABC blank, and it's fill in the city name, fill in the proper name, fill in the name of the business, and that's the same across every page on your site, or that's taken from a manufacturer's description and that's put in there.

You need to have that uniqueness throughout, and Google is very good at shingling, which is sort of a method for pattern detection inside topics or inside content. Don't play with them. Just make sure that this is a highly unique piece. If you want to quote something, that's fine. If you want to use media or graphics from somewhere else, that's fine and reference those. I'm not talking about that, but I am talking about that sort of playing mad libs SEO is a dangerous game.

We've noticed that longer content, more content is literally quite well correlated with better rankings, particularly post Panda. What you saw is that sites. I'll give you an example. I look at a lot of rankings for restaurant sites, because I'm constantly doing searches for restaurants and types of food because I travel a ton. What I see is that Yelp and Urban Spoon do very, very well. City Search often does well, and then you'll see those independent, individual blogs. When they tend to rank well, when they're on page one is when they've written that long diatribe exploring all sorts of things on the menu with lots of pictures of the food, an experiential post versus a short snippet of a post. You'll find those on page three, page four, page five. They don't do as well. That longer in- depth content, more of the uniqueness, more value in the content, more than I can get out of it as a reader seems to be something that Google is picking up on. I don't know if that's pure length. I don't know if that's something necessarily they're looking at in the user and usage data, but it could be helpful if you're not ranking very well and you're thinking, boy, I have a lot of pages that are just short snippets. Maybe I'm going to try expanding some of them.

Using images in media, we've, of course, seen the correlation with alt attributes matching the keyword and images. That's not what I'm talking about necessarily, but using images on the page can create more of that in- depth experience and can create a better relationship between you and the visitor. Those things could be picked up and used in other places, and then they'll link back to you. There are all sorts of benefits.

User generated content, so getting comments and interaction down here at the bottom, that type of stuff often is an indication in search engines that, hey, people really care about this. It's also an addition to the amount of content, and it tends to be very unique and valuable and useful. It uses those words that people on the Web would be using about the topic, and that can again be helpful for your content optimization.

Then, finally, Google is clearly looking at things like reading level and correctness of grammar and spelling. There's now a filter inside Google. If you click on the advanced search in the little gear box on the top right- hand corner of your screen when you're logged into Google, you can see advanced search. When you click that, there's a reading level filter to say, "Only show me content that's 12th grade and above." Clearly, Google has that ability.

What I'm saying here is that your content formatting, the way you're putting things together, the length of the document, the in-depthness, and the correctness, these can all have an impact. Don't just be thinking about keyword stuffing and using a few keywords here and there and putting it in the title at the front. Be thinking a little bit more broadly about your on- page optimization. You might get more benefits than even doing some link building, sometimes.

All right, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we will see you again next week. Take care.

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I’m Being Outranked by a Spammer – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Kenny Martin

What do you do when you are being outranked by a spammer? It's one of the most frustrating things that an SEO can face, but before jumping to conclusions it's important to understand what exactly is happening.

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand gives us helpful advice with many important steps to follow if you discover that a spammer is outranking you. Let us know your thoughts on this challenging problem in the comments below!

Video Transcription

Howdy SEOmoz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're talking about a very tough problem, being outranked by spammers.

What I mean very specifically here is link spammers, because it is rare in the SEO world that today you are seeing other sorts of spam. Cloaking, manipulative redirection, doorway pages, they happen a little bit, but they are much less common. The most common forms of spam and the thing that I see people complain about all the time, the thing I get emails about, I get tweets about, we get Q&A about is, "Hey, Rand, I am being outranked by these spammers. Can you send this over to the Google webspam team? Can you tell the Bing webspam team? Who should I email over there? I filed my webspam reports. Do you think I should try and get it published on YOUmoz? Should I try and write to The New York Times and have them write about it because it seems like Google kicks people out when they're written about in The New York Times, at least for a little while?"

These are not always great tactics unfortunately, but I do want to walk you through some things that you should be doing when you think you are being outranked by spammers.

The first part is make sure, make 100% sure, that what you are looking at is really a ranking that's been earned through link spam. What I am talking about here is I will take you back. I will tell you a story of several years ago. This was probably, I am going to say 2007, and I was in the audience, I can't remember if I was on the panel or in the audience, and there was Google's head of webspam, has been for the last decade or so, Matt Cutts, on the panel. Matt was looking at some links using his special Google software where he is investigating a link graph right on his laptop, and someone from the audience had said, "Hey, Matt, I am getting outranked by this particular spammer." He looked and said, "No, you know, we see a few thousands links to that site, but we're actually only counting a few hundred of them, and they're the ones that are making it rank there."

So, think about that. We're talking about thousands of links pointing to a site. Think of all the links that might be pointing to a site here. Here are five different links that are pointing to this particular page. What the webspam team at Google is essentially saying is, "Hey, you know what? We know that this and this and this and this are spam. The reason that this page is ranking is because they do have some good links that we are counting." Remember it is often the case that Google's webspam team and their algorithm will not make these links cause a penalty against you, because then you could just point them at somebody else's site or page and make them drop in the rankings. Instead, what they'll do is drop the value of those, so that essentially it is like having a no-followed link for those pages. Yes, it's a followed link, but they are going to essentially say, "Oh, you know what? Our algorithm has detected that those are manipulative links. We are going to remove the value that they pass."

A lot of the times when you look through a list of hundreds or thousands of links and you see a lot of spam and you think to yourself, "Hey, that's why that guy is ranking. It's because he is spamming." It might not be the case. It could even be the case that person didn't actually build those spammy links. They just came through, you know, crap, junk on the Web. Not all the time, and usually you can tell the difference, but this is really something to keep in mind as you're analyzing that stuff. When you are, think to yourself, "Hey, how did they get the best-looking links that they've got, and could those be the ones that are responsible for making them rank so well?" Because if that's the case, you need to revisit your thesis around I'm being outranked by a spammer and think I am being outranked by a guy who's done some good link building who also happens to have lots of spammy links pointing at him. That's a completely different problem, and you need to solve for that.

If you are sure, so let's say you've gone through step one, confirmed that, you know what, this is a crap link too that Google shouldn't be passing value, but somehow they are. I want you to ask two more critical questions.

The first one: Is focusing on someone else's spam that's outranking you the best possible use of your web marketing time? You've got a lot on your plate. You don't just have to worry about SEO, right? These days you're worrying about SEO; you're worrying about keyword research; you're worrying about link building; you're worrying about content marketing; you're worrying about blogs and blog commenting and RSS and the traffic rating through there. You're worried about social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn – and the longtail of all these other sites – Quora and Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon. You're worried about web analytics and analyzing your success and making sure things are going through. You have to worry about crawlers and XML site maps and robots.txt. Make sure that thinking about and spending time on trying to flag somebody else's spam or trying to get them penalized is absolutely the best possible thing that you can be doing with your day. If it's not, reprioritize and put something else up there.

The second question is, which we don't discuss at SEOmoz here because we really kind of hate this practice, but are you willing to and does your site have risk tolerance to go acquire spammy links? If you see someone's outranking you and you're like, well, I could get those kinds of links too or those exact links too, do you have the risk tolerance for it? If you believe that it is an ethical issue, do you have the moral flexibility for it? If you don't believe it is a moral question, do you have the budget for it? Is it the best use of your budget? Is it the best use of your time? I almost always believe the answer is no, with the possible exception of some super spammy fields, PPC (porn, pills, and casino), which I have never personally operated, and so I don't pretend to understand that world. But virtually every other form of legit business on the Web, I can't get behind this. But maybe you can. Maybe you want to. Decide if that's the route you want to take.

Once you answer those two, you can move on to step three, which is, should you report the spam? The problem here is, you are going to go and send it through, let's say, your Webmaster Tools report, and there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of these filed every day. Probably put it somewhere between tens and hundreds of thousands of these filed every day, spam reports. Google says Webmaster Tools are the best place to file, when you are logged into your account, to report spam from other folks. Those reports go to a team of software engineers who work on Google's webspam and search quality teams. Then you can see, they've done a video, where they sit around and they prioritize all the day's projects and they determine who is going to work on what and how much energy they're going to put into it. You can probably tell that over the last couple of years, maybe even three years, there has not been a ton of energy spent to try and devalue link spam. In fact, a lot of paid links are working these days, and it's sort of a sad reality. I think that many people assume that Google's actually trying to move beyond linking signals, particularly social signals, Google+, by using the signals of users and usage data that they're getting through Chrome's market share, which I think was now reported globally as over 25% of all web browsers, which is very impressive, from StatCounter.

So, I would say that this is a low-value activity as well. Not that you necessarily shouldn't do it. I mean, if you want to try and help Google make the Web a better place and you believe in their sort of mission and the quality of the people there, then by all means, spend two minutes, report them for webspam. It's not going to take a ton of your time. But please, don't think this is a solution. This will not solve any of the problems you're trying to solve. It might help Google in the long run to get better, to try and analyze some forms of webspam and link spam that they might not have otherwise caught if you hadn't told them. Is it going to help you rank better? Boy, probably not, and even if it is, not for a long time, because these algorithmic developments take a tremendous amount of time and energy to implement. Panda was years in the making. Most of the link spam devaluations that happened in '07 and '08 were years in the making. You could see patents that were filed two years, four years before those things actually came out. But reporting spam is an option.

Then I want you to move on to step four, which is can you – I think you almost always can – outmaneuver the spammers using their own tactics? What I mean by this is you might see where those links are coming from, but what's winning? Is it coming from high PageRank or high MozRank pages? Sort of home pages of domains? Is it coming from internal pages? Are they coming from directories? Are they coming from forums? Are they coming from blogs? Are they coming from .edu sites? Where are those links coming from, what are they pointing to, and what kind of anchor text are they using? Is it diverse anchor text? Is it all exact match anchor text? You want to find, you want to identify all the patterns. You're going to say, "Oh, this is anchor text pattern and this is the diversity of those patterns of where those links are coming from and this is a type of site it is coming from and this is the quantity or the number of sites I'm seeing and here's where the link target's pointing to." You look at all those things and then you find ways to do it inbound. Find ways to do it white hat. I promise you, you can. Think of one of the most common forms of spam, which is someone hijacking .edu webpages on student domains and then they essentially have all these anchor text links pointing to a specific page on their site from .edu pages that are buried deep in a site, but because it is an .edu it is a trusted domain. Usually there are only 50 or 100 of them, but they seem to be passing juice.

So how do you get 20 or 30 good links from .edu? I'll give you some great examples. Well, I'll give you one, and then you can figure out tons more on your own and certainly there is tons of link building content that you can look at on the SEOmoz site. But here's a great one. Go do a search like your keyword – whoa, that's a lot of smudging – your keyword + file type:pdf or xls or something like that and What this is going to give you is essentially here is a bunch of research that has been done on .edu sites that's been published, that's probably kind of buried. Now, I want you to go create some great blog posts, some great content, that references this stuff, that turns it into a graphic, that makes a clever video about it, and then I want you to email whoever was responsible for the research, and I guarantee half the time they are going to link to you from that website, from the .edu website. They're going to be like, "Oh, this is great. Someone turned my research into an infographic on a commercial site. Very cool. Great to see that application in the real world. Thank you. Here's a link . . ." from an .edu that's not spammy, that's completely inbound, white hat because it's making the Web a better place. There are ways to figure out all of this stuff.

Then I want you take this last and final step, step five. Beat them by targeting the tactics, the channels, the people, and the keywords that they don't target. Remember what spam does. Spam tends to look at, if here is the keyword demand curve and we've got the head in here with all the popular keywords, that's where all the spam is. You very rarely, extremely rarely, see spam down in the tail. So if you can do things like user generated content, building a community, building tons of longtail great content, having a blog, having a forum, a place where real people participate and are creating a kind of Q&A site, you're going to target all that longtail. Remember 70% of the keyword volume is in here. This is only 30% up in the fat head and the chunky middle. Great. Fantastic way to work around them. Or think about ways that they can't target, the channels that spammers, especially link spammers never target – social media, forums, and communities. Rarely do they ever target blogs. Those people don't take those sites seriously. They don't take them authentically. Think about the branding elements you can build. You can have a better site design, a higher conversion rate, a way better funnel. People subscribe to your email. To follow you, subscribe to your RSS feed. No spammer is ever going to get that, and those are customers that you can keep capturing again and again and again, because when you do inbound marketing, when you do white hat marketing, you don't have to just push your site up the rankings. You can approach it from a holistic point of view and win in all sorts of tactics and all sorts of channels. That's what I love about this field too.

All right everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you'll feel maybe a little bit less stressed out about that nasty spammer who is ranking above you. I hope you'll see us again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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Using CRO to Make Great Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by caseyhen

This week we are joined by Carlos del Rio from Agillian, who is based here in Seattle, WA. Carlos will discusses a method that will help you make great content by following 3 easy steps. After watching the video dive into the comments and discuss what your thoughts are on using CRO to make great content.

P.S. It looks like we might have also been joined by a fly, so please excuse him when he flies across the screen a few times….

Video Transcription

Hey Mozzers. I'm Carlos del Rio. I own a consultancy called Agillian, and I am the author of "User Driven Change: Give Them What They Want" and a "Strategic Framework for Emerging Media," which is kind of a mouthful. Even I have trouble saying it.

I am here today to tell you how to use CRO to make great content, and when I say to make great content, I mean for any portion of your marketing campaign. So, you need to make sure that you meet the most basic portion of conversion optimization. I mean the three things that are the most important for all conversion rates are a clear action, a clear purpose, and a clear value. That's what every landing page is trying to do. That's what every pay-per-click ad is trying to do. Tell a person what you want them to do, tell them what it is about, and communicate what the value they're going to get out of the interaction. So, "Buy tires cheap," or "Buy tires, free delivery." Something where they know what it is that they are coming for and that they get something at the other end. For example, if you are writing a piece of content for your blog, you want to be able to answer, "Is it clear what the purpose of this blog is? Is it clear what the topic is? Is it clear that there is a value for this person to share it with their friends?" Essentially if you are doing blog and content marketing, it is really for the links. We know that's what it's about. Same thing with if you're making LOLcats. Same thing if you're sending out an email to solicit a link buy.

So, in all of your strategies you want to know what is this particular campaign doing. Is it helping our users understand what they can do with us? Is it helping them understand who we are, or is it helping them understand what the value is? Each one of the individual pieces, like each piece of link bait or each email or each tool that you build is supposed to answer all three of these very clearly. You want to know exactly how to interact with it. You want to know what it is going to do. You want to know why is it of value to you.

So, if you take the example of, like, LOLcats, we've all seen these. The difference between the millions of LOLcats that nobody cares about and the LOLcats that end up being in your Facebook stream every 15 minutes are that the ones that get shared answer the clear action, which is share me; what is the purpose, this is a LOLcat; and what is the value, this is the funniest LOLcat that I've seen all day. This is the LOLcat that crosses over with my community. If I was to make a cat playing on a computer that said, "I'm up in your Internet messing with your title tags," you're going to find that funny because you are in SEO, but almost everybody else is going to be like, uh, lame.

If you were, say, This or That, Rebecca Kelley did a thing recently that was, "Does Justin Beiber look like Velma from Scooby Doo?" This enrages both people who like Justin Beiber and people who like Velma. So, what she is doing is creating a place where you interact with this piece of content, and she has two groups of people that want to interact with this type of content. They get to show what they think, and they get a value out of having you know what they think. When they pass this on to their friends who come in and do those three things to derive value for themselves, you get traffic, which you are monetizing.

It is the same thing with the LOLcats. Cheezburger makes money off of people coming to visit. They get people coming to visit by thinking about a clear action, a clear purpose, and a clear value from the perspective of their users.

In the same way, you are here in the Moz community, and they have two kinds of users. They have basic users and they have premium users. Well, they keep building new tools, and they have to think about: What is the action of this tool, what is the purpose of this tool, and is it going to be valuable to the community? When they write out to every one of the basic members and say, "We have this great new tool," they have to really go through this process twice. They have the process of does the tool meet these standards? Is it clear what I can do with the tool? Is it clear what the tool is going to deal with? Is it clear that I can get some value out of it? They also have to write an email that it's very clear what they want you to do, which is switch from being a basic to being a premium user. It has to be very clear what this tool is going to do for you, and it has to be very clear that you're going to derive value out of it. Otherwise, they aren't going to get a good conversion rate.

So, hopefully, these examples will give you something that's actionable for your business and let you take conversion rate optimization into all of the things that you're doing for your marketing.

I'm Carlos del Rio. Thanks.

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Using Emails to Build Links – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Kenny Martin

It's not so common to think about email marketing as a potential link building opportunity, but it's actually a wonderful tactic that you can use. Leveraging those finely crafted email lists with an SEO strategy can be highly advantageous.

In this weeks Whiteboard Friday, Rand shows off some useful and creative tips on how to utilize an email marketing strategy that will help you build links.

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This is actually Thanksgiving Friday in the United States, so I hope you had a wonderful turkey day with your families. And for those of you in other countries, turkey is not the most delicious of birds, but we enjoy it. It's good. We make a little cranberry sauce. We've got a little yams and some sweet potatoes. It's great. It's lots of fun. And, of course, there's football, which is my favorite part.

All right. So in this edition of Whiteboard Friday, since it is indeed the giving of thanks, we are talking about getting thanks from your users from whom you're getting great email content by getting links from them.

Email marketing, email list building is actually a phenomenal way to get links. It's not something that many people in the SEO world think about. We've got a bunch of different strategies.

The first thing I want to talk about is building an email list itself. There are tons and tons of tips on this out there on the Web, and I don't want to pretend that I'm an expert. But what I will say is that having a subscription to an email list on a website, particularly if you are a content-based site or an ecommerce-based site, is absolutely huge. Even for those of you doing B2B direct marketing or doing affiliate sales of some kind, email list building is a wonderful way to capture consumers and potential customers, bring them into your ecosystem. Those email addresses are incredibly valuable if you can build up a good relationship over time.

A few recommendations. You've often got something on the side of your website that lets people subscribe with email. If you blow it up, it looks something like this. You've got your name, you've got your email, you have a subscribe button, and that's great. What I would really recommend is to ask for very, very little in these boxes. If you have a subscription that pops over, please ask for as little as possible. But do me one favor – ask for the name.

The reason the name is so important is because in email marketing and list building, as email marketers know, getting the open rate up is critical. Getting people to click on that email, open it up and click through. Having their name means that you can do much more with personalization of those emails. Not having their name means it's very frustrating. It's hard to write that first intro sentence or paragraph, whatever, if you don't have their name, and it's often hard to get them to click through as well. I'm sure all of you get email spam like this that says, "Hi, blogger from so- and-so." "Hi, dear Rand@SEOmoz." I'm sort of like, "Yeah, you have no idea who I am and you couldn't care less. You're just trying to get me to take some action." But if it says, "Hey there, Rand" or, "Rand, we've got something you might like," that is much more likely to get an open. It can be customized, etc.

Make sure that you have something of great value that you are delivering over email, and then make sure that you're not just promising it, but you are actually delivering on that promise.

Indicate the frequency that you are going to have. So in here, I might say something like "once per week." So you will get a weekly email, or you'll get a daily email, or you'll get a monthly email. Don't be coy about how often you are going to send it. Try not to be too out-of-cycle with those emails. It's really that kind of thing. I get a weekly email and then suddenly I get two in two days, and I think, "It's time to unsubscribe from this list." Try not to do that.

Also, watch and manage your inactives very, very carefully. If you see people who consistently have never clicked, never opened, never taken any action, you might actually want to remove them from your email list. I know that sounds crazy, because you're thinking, "Wait, but I want a bigger email list. I want to grow it over time." I know. I want that too. But the problem is that email management services, MailChimp for example, or Bronto, which is what we use here at SEOmoz, they monitor very closely that usage rate. A lot of those people who aren't taking any action but haven't unsubscribed are reporting you for spam. They're clicking that spam button in Gmail. They're clicking the report spam button in Hotmail. They're clicking the spam button in Outlook. That's a huge problem, because the percentage of people who report you for spam is a metric that those providers use to determine deliverability rates. They might actually kick you off their service. You are going to have worse deliverability problems over the long run. So try and weed those people out. Anyone who you think might not be engaged or active or interested anymore, you've changed the focus of your business or of your email list, get them out of that funnel so you are not clouding up and murky-ing the waters. Spam is a big, big problem in email deliverability, and you don't want to end up in that group.

And finally, last but not least of the tips here, A/B and multivariate test how this piece performs. You want to be trying different things. A different headline, a different way of capturing it, different form placement, using the overlay, using something where they only see when they scroll to the bottom, whatever it is, so that you can get the maximum percent of people who are visiting your pages taking that email action, particularly if email is a big way that you drive your business.

Now, you've done all these things. You've built an extraordinary list. I'm very proud of you. Your marketing team loves you. Now you're thinking, "I want to leverage this for some SEO. I want some links. Give me some links, baby!" I'm going to give you some links.

There are some link building tactics that you can use that are going to drive value back to your site, maybe some of them direct links, good anchor text pointing to the right pages, some of them brand links that are just pointing to your home page, some of them random distribution, and some of them, of course, are going to be social shares, which might not be counted as links, might have some impact on rankings. We're not really sure. Probably as a second order effect at worst.

I'll talk about the first one here. Share embeddable content. You're very aware of the power of things like badges and infographics or tools, what have you, stuff that can sit on someone else's site and point back to you. Share that stuff over your email list. If you have a great badge for people and you want to say, "Hey, you've contributed a design to our site," "You've been a member here for a year now," "You've filled out your profile completely," "You've bought three things from us," "Here's a way to say that you like our brand. Here's something to encourage you." And the people who are passionate about your brand and about your community they're going to embed those things on their sites. Wonderful. Just great for your SEO. And, of course, you get to control the anchor text and where that points. Another great thing.

This sounds a little complicated, but it is totally brilliant. You've got this big list, and the list looks something like, here's This is an absolutely incredible piece of information that so many people under-appreciate. is often Gmail. It's often Hotmail. Scrub those. You don't care about those. What you care about are all the rest of those domains. Those are all websites where people from those sites, particularly if you're in the B2B field or serving B2B type customers, where these people own those sites, are marketers on those sites, are involved with those sites somehow, and you can reach out to them by filtering the domain names you care about, using something like the Linkscape API or the Majestic SEO API if you want to get fancy, and seeing, "Hey, do these sites already link to me?" and then ordering by, "Oh, you know what? I'm going to take these domain names and in Excel I'm going to order by domain authority, and I'm going to grab the ones that are highest domain authority that aren't linking to me, where I think I've got a chance of outreach." And by the way, I can do that outreach directly because I know somebody there. Somebody there has subscribed to my email list, so they care about my business. That makes that outreach, those business development possibilities much, much more accessible. For those of you who are looking for where should I do email outreach, where is an easy target, it's this. Come on, you can't get any easier. It's wonderful.

Number three. Encourage your users through email, particularly if you have something like a profile that they are creating on the site or a user page, encourage them to fill those out completely. The reason that I love filling them out completely is because when people invest effort in them, they will often link to them. If you provide any value back on those profile pages to the people who are creating stuff on there, whether it's, "This is your design portfolio," "Here's your Amazon Wish List," "Here are the things that you've customized on the site so far," whatever it is that you've done, you want those users to fill out the profiles because they will have a strong potential to link to their profiles, and once they do, you get SEO value from that "rising tide lifting all ships" phenomenon.

The next one; consider sending some individual emails to the users who get activity and engagement on your site. The simplest form of this is blog comments. Someone subscribed to your email list, they accept email privileges when they register with your site, someone replied to their comment. Someone mentioned them somewhere. They received an action on their page. 100 people visited their profile page. 100 people checked out a product they customized. 100 people looked at their wish list. Imagine if you were ThinkGeek and you get, "Hey, someone looked at your ThinkGeek wish list today." Just a little friendly notification. This is a way to bring people back to their site and for them to think, "Oh, yeah. I wish more people did this. I wish more people engaged with me on the site. I'm going to re-engage." Again, not necessarily leading to direct links, but in some cases it will.

Just three more good ideas for you here. When you capture the email address, if possible in this box here, if you don't ask for location necessarily, you might later in a profile setup or completion step, you might get it through a credit card, but you can also get it through their IP address. When you capture an email address, capture that IP and Geotag it so that you know where those users are. The reason is when I go and visit Kansas City, I can say, "Hey, SEOmozers who are in Kansas City," shoot them an email, let's tell them I'm going to do a MozCation there. We're going to do an event there. I'm going to be speaking at an event there. It's a fantastic way to bring people from your community who already care about you back into the fold. Events are just a great way to earn natural links back to yourself, because you build relationships, people see you, and they just naturally link to you. You are engaging with them, you are contributing. Even if they can't make it to the event, sometimes you are going to get a link by them sharing it and saying, "Hey, by the way, so- and-so is coming to this." They'll put it on their blog. They'll link to it on a forum. They'll put it on their About page, whatever it is. They tweet about it. Great. Just a terrific way to interact and engage.

The second thing. This might be my favorite one on here. When you do this, when you go and you filter and you grab the domain name of all the people that you care about, and you've got that ordered, then go find those people's Twitter accounts, their blogs, their websites, and go engage with them socially. I promise you, if you are naturally, positively engaging on Twitter, in blog comments, on their Facebook Brand page, on their Google+ page, whatever it is, they are going to figure out who you are and remember you. They've already signed up for your email list, so they have a positive association with you and like what you do. You are going to earn a link sooner or later. It might be a month, might be six months, might be a year, but you are going to get that link through engagement. This is a wonderful way to just build your presence in raw inbound marketing, never mind just pure SEO.

Finally, Aaron Wheeler from the Moz team had this great idea to insert in your RSS feed, especially if you're running an RSS feed that's not powered by advertising but is content-driven, insert ads. You know how you've got an RSS feed and it looks something like this. Here's a piece of content, and then sometimes there will be a little block of advertising if it's a paid RSS feed and they want to sponsor it. Instead of advertising for a third party, encourage your own advertising. Encourage sharing of content. If you have a special piece of content in the RSS feed, you might say, "Hey, we'd really appreciate your help spreading this out over the Web. We're doing a subscription drive with a nonprofit. We're having an event somewhere. We are promoting a new service that we have. We have this new infographic that collects a bunch of data that we think a lot of people will love. Help us share it." Don't do it on every post or it will be ignored. Do it on every 7 posts, every 20 posts. Then you'll get attention and intrigue, because people who are subscribing to RSS via their email and getting those posts in email will see that little ad block and go, "Oh, maybe I should share that. That seems useful and interesting."

So you can see the wonderful power of collecting email addresses, building a great list, obviously for email marketing, but also getting some value back for SEO through the links that you can drive.

I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Beyond Exact Match Anchor Text To Next Generation Link Signals – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus Shepard

We love exact match anchor text! It’s the Holy Grail of links that make our rankings soar – or does it? Many SEOs predict Google will continue to devalue exact match anchors as their algorithm evolves in the age of Panda. We’ve seen evidence of this phenomenon over the past year and many expect to see the value of exact match drop even further.

Many webmasters wonder if they should give up link building altogether. Not at all! Search engines collect a ton of data through links to better understand your content and how valuable it is. Recognizing these link signals can help you make the most out of every link you gain. Do you have any tips on anchor text? Let us know in the comment below!


Video Transcription

Howdy SEOmoz! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Cyrus. I do SEO here at SEOmoz. This week I want to talk about anchor text. Every week I get emails, I am sure you do too, from webmasters asking for a link, and they always want that exact match anchor text for the specific term they’re trying to rank for. It is a good practice. It works well. But things are changing in the SEO world.

1. Exact Match

In the old days, if you wanted to rank for something, your tactic was very simple. If your target keyword was Bing cherries, you just tried to get as many exact match anchor text that said Bing cherries as possible to your website. Those of you who have been practicing SEO for a long time noticed something about a year and a half ago or so, that this method did not work as well as it used to. If you got too many exact match anchor texts, it could actually hurt you. That’s why you say, that’s such a 2009 tactic.

Now with the Google Panda update, we’re talking about a whole other realm of ranking signals, such as engagement metrics, social signals, but we don’t want to forget these link signals. Even if exact match isn’t the end all be all, there is still a lot of information that Google and other search engines are getting from these link signals, and that’s what we want to talk about today.

2. Partial Match

Now, one of the most overlooked types of anchor text links is the partial match, and I am in love with partial match. I really quit going for these a long time ago. Now it is all about partial match. People sort of misunderstand what partial match is. The technical definition of partial match is any anchor text that contains at least one of your keyword phrases. So, if your keyword phrase was Bing cherries, these would all count as partial match anchor texts: Bing are the best cherries; I love cherries; Bing is awesome. Yeah, it’s probably not what they are talking about, but it is still technically partial match anchor text.

If you are a fan of the 2011 Ranking Factors that SEOmoz did – we’ll link to it in the text below – we took a look, one of the factors we looked at was the power of partial match anchor text versus exact match anchor text. Now, in general, if you look at the root domain metrics, the correlation between the number of exact match anchor text was 0.17. All things being equal, the power of partial match anchor text was 0.25. Significantly more power and more correlation between the number of partial match anchor text and exact match anchor text. So, all things being equal, it seems like people rank higher, just a little bit, if they have more partial match as opposed to these exact match that everybody is always going for.

This is how I’d like to explain it. If you give me a choice, if you could say I could have any 300 links I want but they have to be 300 partial match anchor text or 300 exact match anchor text, a lot of webmasters would go for this thinking it is the best policy. Statistically though, this is your best choice. This is going to contain some of your exact matches, but you’re going to have such a bigger broad tail, long tail queries that you can rank for. You’re going to get more traffic. You’re going to rank better for your targeted keywords, and this method is future proof. As Google deemphasizes these exact matches, this is going to take you forward in the long run. Those links are going to have a lot longer long-term value, and it is just going to give you a better natural looking link profile.

3. Context, Placement and Relevance

Other link signals, how do you make these links count? If you’re not getting the exact match anchor text, what are other context signals that Google could be looking at? Well, first of all, they are going to be looking at the on-page signals of the page that’s giving you the link. If you are trying to rank for Bing cherries, you want the title tag of that page to be cherries. There is an article Rand wrote a couple years ago, "The Perfectly Optimized Page." All those on page signals, those are what you want on the page linking to you – the title tag, the H1 headers, keyword usage, alt text in the photo. Those are all signals to Google that this page is about Bing cherries. It’s linking to you. You’re more likely to interpret that as this link is about Bing cherries.

Context, Google is getting increasingly more sophisticated at being able to do block analysis and determine what the page is about. So, if you have a section of ads, Google can kind of tell that is a section of ads. If you have a link in that section of ads, probably not going to count for very much. Same on the sidebar. If you have a link about Bing cherries on a page about monkeys and it is hidden in this link of text, well, the context and the placement of that link, Google says that’s probably not about cherries. It looks kind of like a paid ad, and that’s not going to count for very much. So, context, on page signals, all those traditional on page optimization, those things that you would want on your own page, you want to look for from the link.

4. The Future of Link Signals

Google is spending a lot of money to learn how to understand pages, to learn context. The days of the dumb search engine are kind of leaving us behind. Google is getting better and better at figuring out what these pages are about. If you read Google patents, which a lot of us like to do, SEO by the Sea is a great blog to read, they’re seeing patents such as sentiment analysis, such as in online reviews. Google will actually try to figure out if that review is a positive review or a negative review. So, even if you get the link, if there are words around it like Joe’s Pizza sucks, well that might not be, in the future, as good as link as Joe’s Pizza is awesome. Now, this is all theory. We don’t have the data and the facts to back this up, but the patents tell us this is where the future is going. Author profiling, the author tags that Google is using, they might be asking is this person an authority? If Rand Fishkin links to you with anchor text about SEO, Google may in the future decide Rand Fishkin is an expert about SEO. That link is so much more important than Joe Schmoe SEO because they know his author profile.

In the end, this system was easy to game. Exact match profiles, very easy to game. That’s why it went away. In the future, it is much harder to game. Search engines are becoming sophisticatedly more like human beings. So, when we look at these pages, we have to be human as SEOs. We have to judge these pages like a human. We have to write them like a human. We have to link like a human. The higher quality you do that, the longer your strategy is going to work and anchor text, linking signals, they’re all going to work for you.

That’s all. Thank you very much.

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Bonus – A Final Note

Different SEOs hold widely varying opinions as to how much exact match anchor text is "too much." Estimates range between 25-80%. I don’t believe there is any perfect ratio, as other factors such as source, context and authority play significant roles. While there certainly needs to be more study in this area, I found the following articles interesting:

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts and recommendations about "perfecting" anchor text.

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Yes, You Really Can Build Links With Twitter – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by caseyhen

Since Rand discussed a scammy link building tactics last week, he decided to tackle a good method that anyone can do. This week Rand has 8 tips on how you can build links using Twitter, yes Twitter! Rand discusses what methods he sees generating links and how you can use them. We’d also love to hear how you are using Twitter to generate links and what you see the future of linking building on Twitter will be.


Video Transcription

Howdy SEOmoz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I am super excited. We’re going to be talking about something that a lot of have a big problem with and that is, how do I actually build real, substantive, long-lasting, valuable links for SEO to my website using Twitter?

People are like, "Oh, you know, Twitter is a great way to do SEO, great way to build connections." I hear all these people on the sidelines like, "Yeah, really, I kind of like my article spinning robot, thank you very much. That works for me." To this I am like, if you took the time and energy that you invested in some of these lower quality tactics and put them into some higher quality, tactics like social connections, and this is where a lot of folks will stop you. They’ll be like, "Social connections? Really, Rand? Twitter? Can you actually get direct links from that? I know you get little tweets. You get more followers. You feel good about yourself, like you’re interacting in a community. But do you actually drive real links to your site?"

Let me show you exactly how. I have eight tactics specifically designed to really get real high quality links right to your website. Let’s walk through them

Number one, the serendipitous connection. This is sort of the most ethereal and nondirect of these. The idea being that I am some guy on Twitter and here is some other nice friend on Twitter and we start chatting with each other. We start building a connection, and eventually that connection through good authentic participation and back and forth, the relationship that it builds, turns into links. This happens all the time. I know it is not very scientific, it is not very direct, and it is hard for a link builder to say, "Hey, I am tweeting back and forth with this person and eventually maybe I will get a link from them and then that will make the tweeting worthwhile." You’re doing a lot more than that. You’re obviously building something real and authentic through that connection, but certainly that serendipitous connection can yield a link.

Now, let me give you seven, much more direct, very targeted ways to earn some links.

Number two, the top X list. This is brilliant from a content perspective. Let me explain how it works. I build a list of like, oh, here’s the number one guy, number two guy, number three guy, number four guy, and number five guy in some particular space. I take that list of those folks and essentially I build it out in the community or the hub or the area that I care about.

Let’s say I am in the business of selling snowboard equipment. So what I want to do is I am going to take the top five snowboarding videos of all time, snowboard stunts. In fact, I might even get more septic because getting more specific yields much better results oftentimes from a link perspective. So, what I want to do is I am going to say the top five snowboarding videos taken in Whistler BC, and I am going to make that a piece of content on my blog, on my website. Maybe it is a blog post, maybe it is just a piece of link bait, maybe it is a list, whatever it is. Then I am going to figure out all the Twitter accounts of all the people who appear in those videos, and I am going to use Twitter as a way I connect to them. I am also going to talk to all the people on Twitter and say, "Hey, does anybody know the best snowboarding videos? Do you have any recommendations?" I am going to reach out to people who have shared snowboarding videos in the past, who have the word snowboard in their profile that I find through a service like Follower Wonk, and I am going to create those top X lists. Then I am going to tweet at all those people and give them all badges for having won that they can place on their websites. Suddenly, I am getting links from all of the top places in industry X.

You can repeat this ad nauseam in all sorts of industries. The wonderful thing that you’re doing is you are curating content. You are finding really good stuff. If you build these great lists, it is not just useful to the people here. It is not just earning you links back to your site. It is also fantastic content itself. You are helping to collate good things on the Internet, good people on the Internet. Here are the top Twitter people to follow in the aerospace field. Here are the best sound engineers in Southern California. Whatever it is, you can build it. You can use Twitter to help build those connections.

Number three, the let me build do find that for you. I know this sounds a little weird, but this is a phenomenal way to make those serendipitous connections turn into reciprocation relationships. So, for example, you see someone on the Web and they are tweeting I need a this or I’m having trouble with this. I will give you a great example. I tweeted recently that my WordPress blog was hacked. It happened to me about three or four months ago. Jeff Sauer from Three Deep Marketing over in Minneapolis reached out to me and said, "Hey, Rand, I’d be happy to help." I gave him my email address. We connected over email. I gave him my login. He fixed the site. He has been fixing it ever since. He is trying to plug up security holes. He is doing great work. He did it all for free. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, "Jeff, dude, we have to get you a ticket to MozCon. We have to make sure we link into your website." I try to refer people over to him. What a phenomenal guy. Absolutely phenomenal guy. On the board at MIMA, too. It’s just that effort of reaching out and helping someone. I don’t know how long it took Jeff. I’d like to think it was an hour of Jeff’s time, but I hope that over the course of the next 6 to 12 months I can reciprocate in a great way. People are like this, especially people on the Web who are active on Twitter and in the social word are like this. If you can do something to help them out, they are going to recognize you for it. It happens all the time. It is a great thing to do particularly with people who have active blogs and websites where they are contributing a lot.

Number four, the storyteller, AKA the Summify. This is actually a very simple content building tactic, but the idea here is essentially that people are telling stories through social media, but they are very hard to track unless you are paying attention to every single tweet, like tweet here, tweet there, tweet there. Only this one and maybe this other one down here are relevant to a particular story. What you want to do is take that time and curate these into a followable, directionable narrative. Once you do, the people who are involved in those stories, the people who are mentioned in them are going to tweet and share and link to them. Other people are going to tweet and share and link to them if they are interesting.

Essentially, you are taking content that is being lost on the social web because it is so temporal and you are bringing it together. You can do this from all sorts of places. Summify will let you pull from LinkedIn and Quora and Twitter and Facebook, I believe, from blogs. It’s a great tool to be able to do that, but you can do this manually too, through screen shots and links and telling the story, those kinds of things. The storyteller is very powerful way, particularly in spaces where interesting stories are forming and people care about them on the social web, to build content that people are naturally going to be linking to, particularly the people who are involved. And, of course, you can use the standard Twitter tactic of tweeting at them to tell them about the content individually like @caseyhenry, what’s you actual handle? [Response in background: Casey Hen] Casey Hen, that’s right. @caseyhen, hey you were mentioned here. Hey, we’re linking to your website here. Hey, we wrote about something that you did here. Of course, people want to share those things.

Number five, I know this is a little light because it is in orange, the link suggestion. Perhaps nothing is more obvious and direct, but you really, really need a relationship first to make this work, which is why building relationships with people who are active in your industry or your space and are writing online or blogging or contributing in journalistic practices, run forums, run small business websites, whatever it is, directories, etc. The link suggestion is essentially when you find pieces of content on their site through reading their RSS feed or browsing, and you think to yourself, boy, they really missed out on this, which by the way, I have something written up about that on my blog, or I have that precise product or I have that service. When people ask for that or when they are not even actively asking for it but they have essentially written about it, they’ve curated something, you can suggest a link to them like, @marksuster, hey, I know you mentioned social media startups in Southern California, but you forgot about Awesome. He probably didn’t. I think he is an investor. You should write about them. You should include them as well. Oh, well, great, perfect. That is a direct request for sort of a link for an inclusion in something. Fantastic way to build this up.

Number six, the content to answer your query. I like this one because what happens is you see a lot in the social world. Not just on Twitter, but even on places liked LinkedIn, on Facebook, which I know sometimes can be private, on Google+, on all the networks. On Quora certainly tons of questions. If you can build up the content that answers that query . . . for example, someone might say, "Hey, what are the best thin and light laptops?" You say, "Huh, you know, I see that question come through quite a bit. I am actually going to build up my top recommendations for thin and light laptops." You can be like here are the top five, here’s who has endorsed them, here is a blog post written about them, here is content from CNET, here are all their specs, here are some graphics, here is some video, whatever it is. You curate that stuff. Come on, man! And then you reply to the people who are asking and those questions come through day after day after day, boom, boom, boom, you can just be replying to them and saying, "Hey, you know, I built this thing because I saw a lot of people asking about it on Twitter," and yada, yada, yada. That is going to drive some great links and drive some great content too.

Number seven, what I love about this one is the reciprocation aspect and the just general goodness that you add to the world. It’s called the must have testimonial. The idea is simple. People out there on the Web are always looking for people to say nice things about their product that they can use on their website. If you can engage people on Twitter and find those people, particularly in sort of startup types of environments or small business environments or particular local businesses, they love to feature content from people. If you say, hey, I wrote a blog post about how much I loved your restaurant, how much I loved your video hosting service, how much I loved your t-shirt that you designed, how much I love the new eyeglasses that I got from your shop on the Web. Whatever it is, you essentially create kind of that testimonial for them and tweet at them, and say, "Hey, I just want to let you know I really love your stuff. If you would ever like a testimonial, just email me or direct message me. I am following you." You’ll probably get a follower. You’ll probably get a direct message. They’ll probably put that testimonial on their website, and you’ll get a link back from the testimonial. You’ve done something great for them. You’ve said, hey, I love their product, I want to endorse them. Now this great product or website that you like is linking back to you. It is a win. Huge win.

All right. Last one. Number eight, the biz dev deal. This works so well all the time because essentially businesses, particularly small businesses, medium businesses, even big businesses, are always looking for ways to jumpstart their reach. Anyone who is participating on the social web, chances are really good they’re trying to do a lot of other inbound marketing. That means that if you reach out to them and say, "Hey, you know, we really like what you guys are doing, and we’d love to talk about ways that we could potentially partner," if you build up that Twitter relationship first, you’re definitely going to get a reply. You’re going to get a reply to that email. They are going to be more likely to like the things that you are doing if they know who you are and they have seen you on Twitter for a while. Building up those serendipitous connections first is going to mean the world when you reach out for a biz dev deal, and biz dev deals almost always include some linking back and forth between your website and websites this other entity might own and that’s going to mean good stuff.

So, when folks say Twitter can’t help you link build, Twitter is not that great for SEO, I want you to look down this list and look down the list below me in the comments where people are going to add tons more awesome ideas and tell you about great stories of how they got links on Twitter, and explain to me how anyone can believe that. Twitter is a phenomenal tool for link building. Great way to do inbound marketing. Such a better use of your time than so many other negative, useless, short-term tactics.

So, I hope you will jump on Twitter. Follow me @randfish and @seomoz, and maybe I’ll be happy to link to you in some future posts.

Thanks, everyone. Take care. See you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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Article Marketing: Mostly A Scam – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Aaron Wheeler

Article marketing is mostly a scam. Well, wait… some types of article marketing are really scammy. Guest blogging, legitimate article sharing, and similar tactics are great and sustainable linkbuilding practices, but making up terrible article content and passing it off as something people should read or link to is both bad for users and bad for long-term SEO. This week, Rand discusses some of the reasons article marketing is so nefarious and some alternatives that are more user-friendly. Have any alternatives or tactics you’re fond of? Let us know in the comments below!


Video Transcription

Howdy SEOmoz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about one of the scummiest, lowdownest, dirtiest, ugliest, messiest, nastiest, no goodnesst things of all in the SEO world, it is called article marketing.

Now, there are some good, authentic, legitimate forms of article marketing. They’re usually called guest blogging or guest authorship, guest writing. What article marketing has come to mean in the field that we are in is something just sickeningly awful. So what I want to do today is talk about it a little bit. You can probably feel some of my pain. Then, we can get into it in the comments and talk more. I know one of the issues, too, is that some folks have success with this, especially early on in their careers, and then think, oh, this is how I can do SEO. I can just do article marketing.

Let me first, for those of you who aren’t familiar, walk you through how article marketing or article spinning, article republishing is done. Basically, we have our friend here. I don’t know, let’s call him Fred. Fred is clacking away on his keyboard. He’s like, "Oh, you know what? I am going to make a useless, fairly painful to read, crap article about why cats are the best pets, and in that article I am going to link back to pages on my site that are about cat ownership or cat food or whatever it is that I am trying to rank for. Those links are going to pass me some nice juice. They’ll go over to my website. That’ll be real nice there." But instead of just publishing on my site, I might publish it on my site, but I am also going to either take it with me and submit it to a bunch of article directories, article portals, article resource sites, sometimes they’re called article publishers. They have all sorts of different names – article portals or something like that sometimes.

Or even better, I’m going to use the article spinning robot software that I downloaded which will go and submit it to all these different article sites for me. By the way, one of the great features of it is it bypasses the CAPTCHA by reading it or they have special arrangements and it only cost me $299. How can I go wrong? My god! It sounds like an amazing deal. Who wouldn’t want to spin their article with Article Spinning Robot 5000 for $300? What a . . . sure, that’s totally going to work.

So, once you get your article published up on all these different sites, the goal is, the idea is that hopefully when I search Google for why cats are the best pets, I see hundreds of different results. Oh, look at all these article sites that I submitted to, they’re all getting indexed, and that must mean they’re passing link juice back to me, and hey some of these article sites have a nice home page PageRank, maybe a 4 or a 5 or even 3. Super exciting. Clearly going to be incredibly valuable and useful for my SEO practices. So the goal is I am going to get these hundreds of sites that are all linking back to me with the anchor text that I have optimized from my article and that’s going to help me rank.

You know what the problem is? The thing that sucks about this is that sometimes it works. In fact, sometimes it works for months at a time or even a year or two at a time.

I was just in New York. I was speaking at an affiliate conference event, and there were some people in the room. One of the people there asked me, she said, "You know, Rand, I do a lot of article marketing, and I am wondering, instead of writing unique content pieces, entirely unique, I heard that Google only duplicate content checks the first and the last paragraph. So can I just leave the middle paragraphs the same and produce hundreds of different articles, send them out to all the different sites? Because usually the editors, they don’t even have editors or they are crappy. They don’t review anything. So, if the first paragraph is unique, they usually accept the article and I can get them reposted. Do you think that will work well?"

I don’t even know how to tell you what’s wrong with your frame of mind when you ask these questions. It’s incredibly frustrating. I tried to be very empathetic and explain, hey, search engines use these Markov chain analyses, they can detect duplicate content, very similar content pretty easily, and these sites tend to be very low quality anyway. She’s sort of like, "Well, okay. I hear you, but I did get my rankings up quite a bit when I used the article spinner." It’s sort of like, yeah, the problem with all of this stuff, with low quality tactics like this is that sometimes they work in the short term and you have to decide whether it is worth the risks.

Let’s talk about a few of those. First off, does Google really want to count those links? Is that what search engineers feel like are going to provide the best results? When I search for something in Google and they say, "Ah, well, you know what, looks like Rand’s article on white cats are the best pets, that’s been spun on 300 article sites, so he must be the very best resource in the whole world on that topic." Can you possibly imagine a Googler thinking that way? So, instead they’re going to be writing algorithms to try and prevent this stuff from working. They do all the time. Some of them fall out of favor. You can see they’ll sometimes publicly lose their PageRank, or they won’t but they’ll lose their ability to pass link juice, or the sites will be completely penalized and they won’t rank anywhere in the top 5 or 10 results and your site won’t rank anywhere. One day Google just wakes up, does an algorithm change. You wake up in the morning, and boom, all your rankings are gone. You’re way down in the penalty box. You go, "What did I do wrong? I’ve been a good article spinner. How could they do this to me?"

Another big risk is the duplicate content side. If you’ve submitting any content that you’d actually like to rank for, it’s going to be pretty tough because some of these article sites are going to claim it’s their own. They’re going to earn links to their site more than you’re able to earn links to your site. You might be penalized and they stay unpenalized, meaning that they’re going to essentially cannibalize the traffic that you could have earned. If you are writing anything really good, you should be wanting to put it on one of two sites – your own 90% of the time, or maybe 10% of the time on a guest posting on another blog, on another website, on a content site, that has great reach, great reputation, that’s going to earn you some trust and authority, not just from the links you’re going to get. That’s not the goal. The goal is to get readership and trust over to your site from real people who enjoy that content.

Of course, the content itself. Most of the time when people are talking about doing article marketing or article spinning, they’re talking about the worst quality, lowest junk crap. As you can see with updates like Panda and Big Daddy and Vince a little bit, Google is just getting so much smarter about content analysis, and they’re able to determine what matters in a block of text and what actual people like. They use user and usage data to do this now. Trying to game that system with low quality junk is not going to get you very far.

Finally, the thing that I think people forget about the most is they’ll spend weeks or months, hours and hours on end, trying to spin the right things and find the right directories and getting their articles submitted here and generating some junky crap over there. I think to myself, imagine, imagine if you were doing something authentic. Imagine if you were doing real high quality SEO and inbound marketing. Imagine if instead of doing that, you got 50 more Twitter followers that day and you shared a bunch of good stuff and you wrote one guest post that maybe only went to one site, but that link lasted for the next 10 years. Imagine what you’ve lost when you spend time doing this kind of crap.

So, are there some alternatives? I was talking to some people at the affiliate show about the alternatives they are using. They’re like, "Yeah, you know, when article marketing stopped working for me, I went with some directory link submission stuff. Then I tried some do follow commenting, and that seemed to work all right." They are sort of like, "Oh, you know, maybe some nofollow comments. That could work as well. It seems like sometimes nofollow comments do work. I’ll do some reciprocal link exchanges." No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Just no. Okay.

How about you try something, anything real? Real and useful. If you think that you can manipulate the search engines or that search engine optimization, that the practice of improving your rankings and gaining traffic is going to be done through this kind of stuff, you’re living a decade ago man. This is not going to work. One of the worst parts about this is that when you do this, the impression you create on users, on visitors who do find you, even if you manage to win . . . let’s imagine that you got your content up to number one using article spinning and article robots and article marketing. Good for you. Imagine what’s going to happen when I come to your site, I visit, and I am, like, "God, this is totally junky." Then I see a bunch of nofollow comment spam that you’ve left on the Web, and I see the articles of low quality that you’ve submitted everywhere. What am I going to think about your brand? How is your conversion rate possibly going to match up to the high rankings that you’ve achieved? If it doesn’t, why are you even bothering? Isn’t it so much easier to get 100 visitors and convert 10 of them than to get 10,000 visitors and convert 1 out of 1,000? It always is.

So, I really want to suggest it’s not that article marketing is evil. This isn’t a moral thing. This is about wasting your time and energy as a marketer and doing things that just detract from our profession.

I hope that you will avoid the classic forms of article marketing and consider some real authentic alternatives. I certainly hope that you’ll join me again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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