linkbuilding — white hat version

Recently, on my advice, our site turned down a submission for an article on link building. My gut reaction when asked about any article on link building is that is too much a gray area of SEO and we shouldn’t even open ourselves up to that. I admit to an invested interest here in keeping things white hat only. My position has always been if you build good pages with compelling content the link building will happen organically. This is easy for me to say because I work on a large corporate Web site with a huge online presence.

But there is value in link building, if done carefully. My guide has always been Aaron Wall’s post on good link building and bad link building.

And I just saw Eric Enge’s post up on SEOmoz: So Many Ways to Pursue Links and So Little Time and I’ll be adding that to my link building resource list as well.

There are eight solid tips in Enge’s post that reflect the same white hat values as Aaron Wall’s post (and I am sure many many others), with some new ones as well — for example, links on edu and .gov links are often overlooked as a good source for establishing authority. This post covers everything from Social media to PR to the blogosphere.  All good stuff. But Enge also doesn’t lose site of the goal.  His final paragraph includes this comment :

Match your content to the target and you will have a much greater chance of success.

I concur.  Keep your end result in mind and your link building will be successful. Don’t spray your links all over the interwebs and expect your target audience to take the action you want them to take.  Instead, take some time to match your link to the audience,  get quality links, and good things will happen with your linking campaign.

New Yahoo — open search and Yahoo buzz

I hate to be negative about Yahoo. I like Yahoo. I still use their e-mail and I always include it in my list of “other search engines” when giving SEO best practices. Such as, “this will optimize your page for Google and other search engines like Yahoo.” And I do not want them to be eaten by Microsoft or Google. A few years ago I thought Yahoo would be the Web 1.0 search engine to go vertical and reach the niche markets Google seemed to have no interest in. At one point (it was a very small point, I admit) I thought that Yahoo could truly compete with iTunes in podcasting. Their offering had so much more customization and community enablement than iTunes had then (2005 or so) and still has. But I just don’t see that happening now with Yahoo Podcasts or Yahoo Audio search or whatever the name is now.

But now Yahoo has come out with two “new” functionalities that just make me wonder why bother.  As for Open search/customizable entries, I tried subscribed links when Google first offered them. The cool factor was very high and creation was really easy. But if I could not get a bunch of people to sign up to get my subscribed links displayed in their results or install it as a gadget and if it would never become part of the standard Google results, then there isn’t much use for it. At least from the basic SEO stand-point, it does not help me reach the unaware user. I am not sure how Yahoo is going to use this or how these links will be developed, but I agree with Philipp Lenssen that at the very least Yahoo should try and take this somewhere if they are going to do it at all. Google can afford to toss something out there with no support; Yahoo is not in a position to do that.

As for the invitation to join (visit?)  Yahoo buzz I got in my Yahoo mail today, I will admit I just don’t get it. I have not yet gotten on the bandwagon for sites like Digg and Reddit, so I may not be in the target audience for this. However, I do see the value of existing social  news sites, but what I don’t see is the value of yet another site for “buzz.” What I want is a site that will separate the truly valuable news from the random buzz. I get that from trusted sources — that is, blogs and twitter. This is my version of trusted sources, maybe someone else will value Yahoo Buzz.

summarizing

One of the reasons I like twitter is the forced brevity. Having only 140 characters helps me focus what I want to say into small portions. I think of Twitter as a snack, while blogging is a meal. Maybe not always the most filling meal, but much more substantial than a tweet. But in theory, a twitter could say more than a blog post — if done well enough.

Twitters were initially very hard for me. But I am getting better as I go along. I am hoping twittering is also helping my summarizing skills. Last week a colleague requested I create a quick and easy SEO guide for a team outside my dept to use. Easy, I thought, I already have 7 years of beginner SEO guidelines, tips, and helpful hints. I would just quickly run through all my existing documentation and create a cheatsheet.

But summarizing 7 years of SEO knowledge was not as easy as I thought. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Every tip seemed valuable to me. And the more sections I created, the more places I realized information was missing. Strategies I considered common knowledge that I never documented but only kept in my head were creating obvious holes in the documentation. I had to write new documentation to cover the basic stuff I thought everyone already knew. Funny how that works. Sunday afternoon I sent off the multiple page SEO guidelines. I know there will be editing.

I came out of this with some new information of my own on the value of documenting everything as well as my own need to be more succinct. I know a lot of stuff about SEO, but I really need to work on my summarization skills.

This whole post as a tweet: document everything as clearly and as succinctly as possible and make it easier to assemble this info quickly

It’s not just web presence, it’s Web Presence

Because I have been working on the Web since 2000, no one needs to prove to me or anyone I work with the value of a Web site. SEO is a different story. Some people get it and some people don’t. And as with most things, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

What also can be a dangerous thing is having a Web site that is not optimized. For over a year I have been living in and repairing a fixer home. I spend a lot of time online researching methods, products, and finally retail establishments where I can buy the products to apply those methods. I have no trouble finding sites to help me establish the correct methods to help me fix this house. Product sites vary in usefulness, but what I have had the most trouble with is finding information on the brick-and-mortar establishments where I can buy these products. Some sites do actually have Web sites, and I can just imagine the salesperson that sold these frame-based sites 4 or so years ago.

I can imagine the case they made to the small to medium business owner that they needed a web presence. That all they needed was a simple site and the salesperson would take care of the rest of the details. And I am sure they did. And then the site was either never quite finished or never updated after the initial publish. And so they sit there, languishing on the web and surfacing in my searches for obscure retail plumbing parts. These sites have incorrect information on hours, phone numbers, and even addresses sometimes. They rarely offer any detailed product information and if they do, the links to the product sites are broken. This pains me. And it makes me, the potential customer, angry.

And if there is more than one choice in retailer, I am going to choose the one that looks like it was created in the 21st century and if it is optimized they get bonus points. And when I say optimized, I am not talking about anything other than not using frames and having individual pages with actual title tags. These are simple things here and I am not just being picky because I am an SEO professional. These are also the things that “normal” people look for and unsurprisingly, that will cause a site to rank well in Google or other search engines.

This is what makes the differences between having a broken down web presence that is nothing more than a placeholder and having Web Presence that leads your users to come to your store and buy things.

blog buzz, SEO, and desired user action

This post on SEO Moz: R0n Paul is the Snakes on a Plane of 2008 got me thinking about the goals of blog buzz and also the goals of SEO. I think there is an assumption out there that all links are good links and all blog buzz will help your product or strategy. And when I say “out there” I am talking about marketing and PR people who think that if you get enough buzz going with blog mentions or with links on traditional Web sites — what I like to call the “static” web as compared to the “dynamic” web 2.0 web — then you have succeeded in your marketing campaign.

I did not follow the snakes on a plane market outcome too close. I enjoyed the parodies and saying “snakes on a plane” is still pretty funny. I assumed that the buzz did lead to movie ticket sales. It did not. Or at least, considering the hype, it did not do as well as expected for that level of exposure. I didn’t see it in the theater, but I did Netflix it.

I agree with the analysis in the post, and want to add that the audience that actually experienced this viral marketing was probably very small. The target audience for all the snakes on a plane spoofs and discussions was most likely people like me — people who are online all work day and online after work just for fun. And for a movie to make the required huge box office numbers, you have to get more than just the geeks going to see the movie. It is an interesting exercise in viral marketing, but essentially, it did not lead to the desired user action. This action being, 100s of millions of people going to the theater to see the movie.

But I also have another takeaway from an SEO perspective — all links are not good links if they do not lead the user to take the desired action. Listings for your site in the Google SERPS are not always worth it for the link juice alone. Being #1 for a one word keyword is not more important than being number #2 for a long-tail multiple keyword query.

But none of this can be quantified as easily as the snakes on a plane viral marketing example. And part of this is because SEO is mostly about Web sites and bringing in visitors. High rankings bring in more pageviews — that is true. But is the goal of a Web site pageviews? Not for all of them. In many cases, the goal is to get the user to buy a product. And in many cases, getting a #1 listing in Google brings in pageviews, but does not lead the user to the desired action.

The goal of SEO is not to get a #1 listing, it is to lead the user to your site, so that you can offer the searcher what he or she is looking for. If the searcher is looking for something more basic than what you are offering, then a #1 listing on a basic keyword query is not going to help you reach your goal or the user reach his or her goal. So you will be wasting SEO time and bandwidth and the searcher not only is dissatisfied with the link, but perhaps even leaves the site and returns to Google with a bad opinion of your site. It’s like reverse branding.

I do still believe a viral campaign is a very powerful thing and I love links (from Google and other web sites). But I think both should be invested in prudently and efficiently to serve both you (the SEO, Web site owner, and/or marketer) and the searcher.

Still getting used to this wordpress thing

I wouldn’t say I am a super-user of any particular blog software, but I do know my way around Roller and Blogger. But WordPress has so much more to offer. It is overwhelming. I think I have done all the theme tweaking I need to (and some I probably did not need to). Now I need to organize all my various Web 2.0 bits and pieces into this one spot.

This week in SEO

Looking into the Yahoo Site explorer to try and branch out from the Google Webmaster tool as the only option for search engine to Web site communication.

Also hacking this wordpress theme. I like the layout, but not the adsense ads. I will be the one to decide where ads go, thank you very much.