Adam Wagner

Aug 04 2013

What an SEO Can Learn from a Vietnam POW

I have recently been re-reading the business classic “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. This is an amazing book that studies a collection of companies over the last 50 years that have outperformed the market by 4-5 times for a period of at least 15 years. Companies featured in this book include Walgreens, Wells Fargo and Phillip-Morris. In the book, Collins proposes a series of traits and attributes about the companies and/or its employees that allow for sustained success. One attribute that Collins describes is the Stockdale Paradox (noted below). Upon reading this I realized that this mindset is perfect for a successful SEO company in the modern search landscape.

Stockdale Paradox:

Retain faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties.

And at the same time

Confront the most brutal facts of your current realty, whatever they might be.

In this post I will unpack just what I mean by the statement – “A great SEO company is one that at its core follows the Stockdale Paradox”.

Where does the Stockdale Paradox come from?

The Stockdale Paradox was created by researchers who studied the life of Admiral Jim Stockdale. Admiral Stockdale was a POW during the Vietnam War. While imprisoned Admiral Stockdale was tortured for military information and had no guarantee that he would make it out alive. During his time imprisoned there were a large number of other POWs that dealt with a similar fate, and many of these men did not survive. When asked which men made it through and which did not the Admiral answered that “men with hope” were the most likely to die. What he meant by this was that those that would say things like “We will be out by Christmas”, and then Christmas came and went and they were still there - these men were likely to die of a broken heart when their hope was crushed.  

What made Stockdale different from these men was that he never gave up hope that no matter how difficult things became the war would end and he would eventually be set free to reunite with his wife. Also, while in the prison Stockdale confronted the brutal reality that he and others were going to be tortured. He realized that no one could indefinitely hold out while being tortured, so he allowed the men and himself to give small bits of information after certain time intervals. This provided a set-up that helped the prisoners coupe with the brutal facts of their reality. These two mindsets were the essence of what allowed the Admiral to survive. This later became known as the Stockdale Paradox and is now utilized as a business analogy.

What does a Vietnam POW story have to do with SEO?

As a white hat SEO the odds can often seem overwhelming because of evolving client needs, seemingly shrinking budgets and the relentless pursuit of Google to make results as “organic” as possible. However, the Stockdale Paradox reminds us that we need to retain faith that we will be able to prevail no matter how difficult a situation may appear. With this mindset the changing search landscape and pressing client requests will not become overwhelming. Your search team will be able to find security in their desire to succeed.

Once you are able to build a team that has faith in their ability to achieve results it is then time to face the facts. Algorithm changes such as Panda and Penguin need to be faced head-on. Here is a list of brutal facts that you can start with, but feel free to include others in your personal list.

  • Search engines will not stop evolving
  • Links should be generated by content that users care about
  • Social signals impact search
  • Author profiles will make a difference
  • On-page optimizations are not going away
  • Local search matters

Consistently face the brutal facts of our situation. SEO has changed so much over the last 10 years (even over the last 2 years!) and this progress is not going to change anytime soon. By facing the facts you are able to take an educated approach towards solving your clients’ SEO problems. As an SEO we are never able to rest on past success because what worked yesterday may not work in the future.

Conclusion

The Stockdale Paradox is an exercise in developing or nurturing the proper mindset as you approach SEO. This mindset can be applied on an individual basis or instilled by a company leader. This mindset can help ensure that your team stays relevant in an ever changing world and it will help you keep a positive attitude even when dealing with the most complex scenarios.

Good luck in applying the Stockdale Paradox to your work. In the comments, please feel free to share any experiences you have had that would be considered examples of leveraging the Stockdale Paradox.

Feb 12 2013

Blog Commenting Tips for Traffic and Brand Building

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What is the value of blog commenting in today’s modern search climate? The abundance of blog commenting spammers and the widespread use of the no-follow tag on blog commenting links may distract many from seeing the inherent benefits in high-quality, on-niche blog commenting. Yes, it is possible to utilize blog commenting as a link building strategy, and many still do in order to gain some low hanging fruit back links, however the real value in blog commenting is the ability to provide consistent traffic and to help your company/client build their brand. In this post, we are going to examine a variety of techniques that will help you develop an effective blog commenting strategy for brand building.

Brand Building

How can commenting on blogs impact your brand awareness? The beauty of blog commenting is that you are able to add your perspective and experience to the topics of your choice. Most blogs allow commenters to add a picture and link to their website. This simple association automatically connects your words with your brand’s website. This provides you with an opportunity to speak on-behalf of the brand in a casual, non-intrusive environment. Users that read the comments on a blog generally have some sort of reaction to the post and so they are looking for additional reactions from their peers or from the blog’s community. So, as a commenter you know you are speaking to a pre-qualified audience. Take this opportunity to engage with the content in a way that positions your brand as a thought-leader or industry expert. If users find your content relevant and insightful it is likely they will click-through to your website (through the link you provided). At this moment the user has now associated your brand with your commentary.

Consistency

Once you have begun blog commenting it is only through consistency that you are able to begin brand building. A one-off or occasional comment is going to provide negligible brand awareness, but a robust and consistent blog commenting strategy on relevant blogs can provide some air cover for your brand. Make sure and select 5-10 blogs that you are going to comment on and make a point of commenting on 1-2 posts per week on each blog. This will ensure that your name, brand and messaging will be in front of the various blog communities on a regular basis.

Traffic

Increased traffic to your website is simply a bi-product of a blog commenting branding strategy. Readers commonly visit the URLs provided by users whose comments they strongly agree with or disagree with. The commenter’s website helps the reader validate the opinion provided by the commenter. So, as a regular commenter you benefit from the readers’ curiosity with increased traffic to your site. The more your comment, the more traffic that will come. 

Website

Now that you have a growing audience of curious readers it is incredibly important that your brand’s website portrays the image you desire and provides the content that users are looking for. The content on your website will vary by niche, but it should be extremely relevant to the category of blogs that you are commenting on. Also, if you are hoping that this new audience engages with your site in a particular way make sure that your site is structured to foster engagement or to funnel visitors where you want them to go.

Find the Right Blogs

This is the most important step in this entire process. If you are not commenting on the right blogs, then your efforts will lead to no monetary or personal gain.

1.) The Right Niche

The value of building a brand comes from building that brand within the proper niche that will buy your services or engage with your content. If you are a dentist and are trying to build a reputation within your field, then make sure you are commenting on dental and medical health blogs. Some industries may lend themselves to a broader pool of potential blogs than others. For example, a nutritionist would be able to find the right audience within almost any healthcare circle, since nutrition is so core to human health, but a road bike shop owner should stay within the road bike community to see the right kind of success. 

2.) Popular Blogs

If there is no one reading the blog you are commenting on, then no one will be reading your comments either. Use content curation services such as Alltop.com or Technorati.com to help you research blogs in your category and find those with high-readership and consistent social engagement. Or even, simply Google “category + inurl:blog” to see what some of the top results are.

Once you have compiled a list of potential blogs make sure and perform some analysis to find the 5-10 top blogs in the category for you to begin commenting on. You want to find blogs that…

  • Have current readers commenting on every post
  • Receive consistent social engagement for their posts
  • Post regularly
  • Allow a link back with each comment

Blogs that meet this criteria will allow you to get your comments in front of other users in your niche that are actively engaged and will have first-time viewers that are more likely to read through blog comments.

What to Say

After finding the right blogs it is time to start sharing your opinion! Make sure to provide commentary that is beneficial to the conversation surrounding the post and that provides analysis and/or a personal experience. This is your opportunity to grab the attention of the other readers and to show them that your opinion should be valued and that you are someone who they should be listening to.

DO NOT simply comment “Thank you for the post!” or some generic line that adds no value to the conversation that is being held.

View the comments as your pulpit and arena to be heard from. This is where you can construct the lens that your brand will be viewed from. Is your brand funny? Is it ROI focused? Is it technologically progressive? Is it an information resource?

The words that you use in comments combined with the messaging on your website will determine how your brand is viewed in the chosen category.

Author Profiles

Last but not least is the use of Author Profiles on blogs that have them. Most well established blogs that encourage blog commenting have a user registration platform that generates profiles for each of their commenters. Make sure and fill out as much information as possible in your author profile. Include information such as… 

  • Full Name
  • Photo
  • Company Website
  • Personal Blog
  • Social Networks
  • Bio

Some blogs even push users to the Author Profiles before the author’s website. Therefore, you want to make sure that your Author Profile is an extension of the brand image that you are attempting to portray. Make sure that the language and images utilized within the Author Profile matches with your website and the tone of voice you use while commenting.

Conclusion

By following the tips suggested above individuals can leverage blog commenting to grow the brand awareness of themselves and/or their company and they can drive consistent, on-niche traffic to the web properties associated with the brand. Blog commenting can be a surprisingly powerful tool for making sure that your brand is placed in front of those within your industry.

Good luck! Please feel free to share your experience or thoughts on brand building through commenting in the conversation on this blog. 

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Jan 23 2013

Prediction: Guest Blogging Five Years From Now

Prediction alert! The proliferation of guest blogging has got me thinking about what is this form of link building and content marketing going to look like in 5 years. Guest Blogging or Guest Posting has become the go-to link building tactic for many SEOs. Guest Blogging is often a win-win for the marketer and for the blog. The blog gains valuable, unique content and the marketer gains exposure and usually a link or two. The simplicity of this set-up has pushed guest blogging to the forefront of modern link building. 2013 is definitely going to be the year of the guest blogger, but I am incredibly curious to see how search engines manage this form of link building as it matures and becomes even more popular. In this post, I am going to provide my opinions on what guest blogging is going to look like in five years. 

Search Engines

Currently, search engines love guest blogging just as much as marketers and bloggers do. Guest blogging is a genuine way to build links that are organic and on-niche. Search Engines have even implemented tools such as author markup from Google that allows for content producers to claim ownership of their posts that are published on a variety of blogs and sites across the web. Many SEOs feel that Google is going to give more weight to Author Rank over the next few years, so that posts on a variety of blogs may see increased rankings when written by authoritative authors. I tend to agree with this idea because a higher value on Author Rank means that more users will be engaged with Google+. Therefore, as Guest Blogging becomes more prominent the influence of Author Rank is going to increase with it. 

More Specific

5 years from now Guest Blogging will still be relevant and useful (I didn’t want to leave you in suspense any longer!). This post is not a doomsday post about how your favorite link building tactic will be discontinued in the near future. However, my primary opinion is that Guest Blogging is going to become increasingly more concentrated and difficult over time. Right now we are living in the golden age of guest blogging. As more and more marketers leverage this tactic for SEO, search engines will counter by making it harder to spam. 

Article Network or Blog? 

Search engines will make it harder to develop spam links through guest blogging by becoming more adept at differentiating between a high-quality, editorial blog and an article network disguised as a blog. Guest Blogging is the new article syndication and as it becomes more prevalent search engines will begin to penalize sites for abusing the system and continually publishing poor content. Historically, search engines have weeded out link building tactics that have potential to produce a large volume of well-ranking, low-quality content. 

Over Saturation Means Quality Counts

The potential for future over saturation means that the need for great content will continue to increase and mature. Yes, right now great content is important, but this trend is only going to continue. Search engines have slowly gotten better at analyzing the value of content and rewarding good content. As guest blogging becomes more prevalent search engines will be given extra incentive for weeding out those that are only developing content for links. Search engines and searchers want unique and helpful content. 

Social Shares

Social shares as a ranking factor is in its infancy, but this will not last for long. The rise of social networks gave search engines a mechanism for judging the value of content from a real-time, human perspective. Right now many believe that social shares on a macro-level will influence your ranking factors and can result in dramatic rankings increases. However, I believe that as search engines familiarity with social signals becomes more sophisticated the ranking effect will take place on a micro-level as well. Right now 10-15 social shares will have little to no effect on your rankings. However, five years from now this will be different. A social share could act as the new back link. It will be interesting to see. Social Sharing will become a major tool in how search engines evaluate the value of a guest post. 

No-Follow Author Bios

Right now author bio links are almost as valuable as the in-context links from your post, but this will change. It is relatively easy for a search engine to determine what links are in an author bio and which are not. As guest blogging proliferates the accumulation of manipulated links will rise as well. Most author bios today contain 1-4 links to almost anything an author could want. The blog publishers currently only police the in-context links, where it is much more difficult to place a link back to your site and still get a guest post submission published. 

Search engines realize this as well, but right now they are not penalizing it. In the future, if guest blogging becomes increasingly spammy then search engines could potentially place penalties on blogs that allow do-follow author bios with spammy links. This would encourage blog owners to make author bios no-follow. The benefit of this to search engines is that it would force guest bloggers to insert links in their posts, which would be monitored by blog owners and would help moderate the quality of links that are being passed around.

More Expensive

Many guest blogging opportunities today are free. There are some webmasters that charge a nominal fee, but most are simply happy to receive the free content. The value for a webmaster in charging even a nominal fee is that the quality of content that they receive improves dramatically. Spammers are not likely to pay a fee for links. Therefore, as guest blogging matures and the supply increases and the amount of spammers increases webmasters will more frequently request a monetary reimbursement for placing content. 

Conclusion

Guest Blogging is still evolving, but it is definitely here to stay! Over the next five years, search engines, blog owners and marketers are going to push the limits and redefine the role that guest posting plays in SEO. In summary, I would argue that guest blogging will see a period of abundance and abuse, which will then be followed by sanctions that define how everyone can benefit from guest blogging and not just the SEOs. 

I would love to hear your opinions. Please connect with me on Google+, engage with me on Twitter or better yet right a response on your own on your blog!

Jan 09 2013

Don’t Make the Mistake of Leaving out Evergreen Content from Your Content Strategy

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According to Forbes, 2012 was the “year of growth” for content marketing. 2012 was the year that business owners stopped asking the question “why content marketing?” and they began asking “how?”. The old digital montra of “Content is King” is just as relevant as ever and is not losing steam. Marketers in today’s modern landscape are trying to find ways to get above the noise. With the abundance of social networks, social bookmarking sites and the reinvigorated rise of blogging content is everywhere. It is up to marketers to help consumers find the content they are looking for. Sujan Patel wrote an insightful article on SEJ recently that details out the basics of what Evergreen Content is and I would encourage you to become familiar with it if you are not already. 

For those of us that are familiar with evergreen content, I wanted to make an argument for why evergreen materials should be incorporated into every content strategy. Many can fall into the trap of only trying to produce as much content as possible in order to continually stay top of mind and on the first page of their target websites. Don’t get me wrong oftentimes the name of the game in content marketing is volume and consistency, but if your content development’s sole focus is fresh content, then there is potential for your content strategy on a whole to feel hollow to consumers. 

Build a Foundation

The primary benefit to evergreen content is that it provides a foundation that your messaging can build on. Evergreen content is developed to stay static and to anchor your website with your brand’s core messaging. The broader content marketing effort will take a variety of forms and cover an abundance of relevant topics, however you never want to lose site of your company’s core services.

Evergreen content is generally focused around the most fundamental aspects of your industry. You want to make sure that the topics covered with the evergreen content are stable and do not experience rapid change.

For example, SEOmoz.org provides some of the most effective evergreen content in the market today. SEOmoz sells a variety of SEO tools for SEOs and small businesses, and so their evergreen content is focused around helping potential customers develop basic SEO strategies. Check out their "Beginner Guide to SEO" to see an example. This anchors a robust content strategy that involves blogging, social media, video, whitepapers, etc. and covers a wide range of topics within SEO from beginner to professional. The evergreen content allows a space for every type of visitor to feel comfortable on the site and it provides a clear path that all subsequent content can build upon.

Position Yourself as an Industry Leader

In addition to building a foundation, evergreen content when executed properly can help position your company as an industry leader. Users are going to engage with your evergreen content after being pulled in by some other form of inbound marketing, so you know that their attention has already been peaked. After a visitor has interacted with your first piece of content the rest of your content helps paint a picture of what your brand’s voice truly is. This is your chance to reinforce the breadth of your company’s knowledge and expertise. 

Develop evergreen content that:

  • Teaches core principles
  • Helps clear-up commun misunderstandings
  • Is a step-by-step guide
By covering these types of foundational topics newcomers will seek out your content and other industry professionals are likely to share your content. Either way you are now in a position to be viewed as an industry leader. 
 
Build Confidence with Consumers to Increase Conversions

Another reason to utilize evergreen content is that it can help consumers build confidence in your brand which will eventually lead to sales. If your site is simply a compilation of services, contact information and employees it can feel shallow to a consumer. Modern consumers want to get to know the brands they purchase from. Social media has changed the conversation, and given consumers more power than they have ever had before. This evolution of the consumer mindset creates an environment where consumers want to have access to as much information from and about your brand as possible before making a purchase.

Once consumers are pulled into your site they will ideally be looking through your service offerings, but oftentimes they need a final push before making a purchase. Evergreen content is a great tool for encouraging the purchase. If the user is ready to buy and has decided your company’s services match their needs evergreen content can act as a validator for their decision. It reminds them that your company is qualified and capable. It can reassure them that the product or service they are buying has been developed by a company that not only says they are a leader but that showcases it as well through their top-notch content.

Conclusion

Evergreen content is an essential piece to any robust content marketing strategy. Please remember to consider this foundational content in whatever content based strategy you are implementing now or in the future. 

If you have experience with evergreen content I would love to hear your feedback on Twitter @adamwagner4 or on Google+.

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Jan 03 2013

Broken Link Building Success Strategies for Professional Services Clients

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As search engines become more intricate and capable, link building has been forced to evolve and become more sophisticated at the same time. All good inbound marketers must continuously expand their knowledge set in order to stay relevant. One of the more recent additions to the link building tool set of many is the concept of broken link building (BLB). The basics behind BLB are to try and find broken links within relevant websites that may be willing to link out to your content. By linking out to your site webmasters are updating their user experience by fixing broken links and you are gaining a valuable on-niche link. This has potential to be a win-win for all parties. 

Anthony Nelson wrote a great introductory blog post on this topic, "Broken Link Building Guide: From Noob to Novice", at SEOmoz and he can be found at Northside SEO. I would highly encourage you to read through his post first if you are new to this topic. Once you have a handle on the basic strategy, then this post will be perfect for you. 

I wanted to dive into a particular strategy for finding BLB partner websites for a professional services client. I am going to use a dentist as an example for this post, but these strategies would be equally relevant to other professional service providers such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.  

 Challenge

The challenge with utilizing BLB strategies for professional service providers is that the large majority of resource/link pages that currently exist are on competitor websites or are simply looking to list industry specific organizations. In both cases it can be extremely difficult to find sites that are willing to replace a broken link with one from a regional provider.

For example, if your client is a Dentist in Los Angeles you may begin your BLB hunt for 404s by searching for something like:

"intitle:dentist inurl:links"

This will return results such as below with a high volume of competitor websites. None of which are likely to link to our dental client. It is time to get creative. Below we will explore several alternative link discovery options that are likely to provide sites with high success rates for professional service providers. 

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Look for Resource Pages

When looking for BLB opportunities it is incredibly important to be seeking out the proper sites otherwise you will be spinning your wheels and wasting time. A great alternative to seeking out “Links” pages is searching for “Resources” pages. The difference may seem minimal, but the “Resources” pages are much more likely to include links between fellow dentists, which are exactly what you are looking for.

Example of a search query: "inurl:Keyword" + “intitle:resources”

Most professional service providers are willing to link out to a colleague if he/she is in a region that will not compete and if it is on a fairly niche topic that they do not specialize in. Oftentimes you can find resource pages that are filled with links to other dentists and if you dig deep enough many of these sites will have links to dentists that are no longer in practice. This is where your opportunity arrises. 

Here is where you can reach out to the webmaster and note that the page has a broken link and that you think your client is a great resource that the webmaster’s patients could gain valuable information from. 

I often use a template such as the one below. You do not want to introduce yourself as an SEO, unfortunately this is likely to raise suspicions and will potentially reduce your likelihood in turning this opportunity into a link. 

Email Template:

Dr. X,

I recently moved to [town where dentist is located] and was looking for a dentist online when I came across your site. I noticed that you have [# of] broken links on the resources page.
While you are updating the resources page I know your readers would benefit from some of the information on my previous dentist’s site [insert URL]. Dr. Y’s site is full of detailed explanations on a variety of procedures and he was a great dentist for my family and me.

I am due for a cleaning and after discussing availability with my wife I will give you a call in the next few weeks.

Thank you.

Look for Guides

Guides are helpful to us all and are very common online. Guides are often presented as a compilation of links, which are often a breeding ground for broken links. 

The beauty of guides is that they can be very specific, which will increase the potential for you to be able to find websites that are already linking to a regional provider. If a website is only linking to national sites or organizations then I would not even spend the time searching for broken links. 

Start your search for Guides with a query such as the one below. I would experiment with a variety of URLs that range from top-level (i.e. “Cosmetic Dentist”) to service specific (i.e. Zoom! Teeth Whitening). The more granular searches are likely to yield the most potential for broken links that are pointing to a regional provider. 

Keyword + “inurl:guide”                                                                    

Once you have successfully found a variety of linking opps, then it is time to reach out to the individual webmasters. Good hunting!                              

Industry Specific Blogs

The last suggestion I wanted to cover is to seek out industry specific blogs. Ideally these blogs would be independent from other service providers, but if this is not possible then service provider sites could work as well, they are just likely to have a lower success rate because the webmaster with the broken link may have an existing relationship with the service provider they are linking out to. 

Here are a few search queries to get you started. 

Keyword + site:wordpress.com
Keyword + site:blogspot.com
Keyword + site:typepad.com
Keyword + site:edublogs.org
Keyword + site:livejournal.com
Keyword + intext:”powered by wordpress”
Keyword + intext:”powered by typepad”

This strategy is slightly different than the rest because it includes searching for 404 pages on the blogs you find instead of searching for broken links within those blogs. The idea here is that we want to find broken pages on these popular industry specific blogs and then we can target the websites that are linking to these pages to replace the broken link with a new link to your client’s relevant content. 

You can use Screaming Frog, a free service, to crawl the blogs you find and Screaming Frog will kick out a status report on all URLs that highlights any existing 404s. Once, the 404s are located check them out to make sure the content is relevant and that it is something your client has or would be able to create on their website. Then, run the 404 page through SEOmoz’ OSE tool and find any linking sites to this page. The sites linking to this page are your target. You can now reach out to the webmaster and notify them of the broken link and then suggest the replacement link that points to your client’s content. 

This strategy can be incredibly effective if you find a previously valuable page that is now a 404. Site owners will be quick to replace the broken link, which could result in quick links for your client. 

Conclusion

Overall BLB is one of many strategies to be incorporated into any diverse link building campaign. This strategy has been gaining favor recently because it is Panda and Penguin friendly and has potential to be massively scalable in the proper niches. 

Good luck with your link hunting! I would love to hear if you have any additional BLB strategies for Professional Service clients. You can always connect with me on Twitter at @adamwagner4.

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Dec 23 2012

Newcomer’s Response to: What the Heck is SEO?

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Over the course of the last month the organic search world has seen a hot debate over the perceived value of SEO and what role SEOs should play in content generation. Paul Boag wrote "The Inconvenient Truth About SEO" on Smashing Magazine earlier this month, which was received by an influx of pushback and commentary from SEOs. Then, on Dec. 21st a group of influential SEOs lead by Bill Slawski and Will Critchlow published their response on Smashing, "What the Heck is SEO?". In their rebuttal, Bill and Will asked numerous SEOs to respond to the below three questions. After reading, I felt an urge to provide my perspective on this issue as someone who has two years of SEO experience and is in the process of creating my own digital agency. My experience with search has been influenced by the current landscape of content marketing dominance, Social Media and Mobile technologies, which are relatively new to the world of digital marketing. I do not have a background that includes the years of web directory prominence, forum commenting and black hat prevalence. The current landscape is all I know and so I feel very comfortable with the back-and-forth conversation between developers and SEOs. We are entering an era where everything is becoming more and more integrated and we are all forced to work more closely together to achieve optimum results for our clients. 

Prologue

SEO is evolving at a mind-spinning rate. Over the last year, Google has made its’ strongest push towards eliminated spammy SEO techniques by focusing on high-quality content that is being engaged with by actual users. Advancements in technology and the prominence of Social Media has give search engines the tools necessary to genuinely judge the quality of content instead of simply interpreting the purpose of the content. 

This has accelerated the overlap of SEO, content marketing, Social Media and PR. Agencies must provide integrated services in order to garner the results clients deserve. Recently, I was a part of an SEO pitch for a hospice company, but the hospice company already had a traditional PR firm that happened to be in the room during the pitch. It actually made a fairly awkward meeting because when it came to discussing link building tactics there are so many overlaps with what could be considered PR that the other agency kept feeling like they had to say “We do that…”. This shows the level of education that needs to take place even within our own industry. As the lines are blurred we all need to educate ourselves on the values of a variety of service offerings. The article by Paul Boag is a larger example of what I just described. It displayed the disconnect between some designers/developers and SEOs. These are two disciplines that are very different from one another, but that should be intricately intertwined. Instead of belittling one another, we need to focus on coming together and understanding the value that all bring to the table. 

Modern digital marketing is in the growing pains of an aging discipline. As it changes and matures we all need to continue to have these conversations in order to grow together.

“How do you define SEO?”

SEO is an antiquated term for describing the modern discipline of telling a story to search engines. SEOs seek to provide relevant, targeted traffic to their clients’ websites through search engines. Therefore, SEOs take advantage of any technique that will better a clients’ odds of appearing in top search results. As search engines evolve so will SEO. 

“What role should an SEO play in the development of content for a website?”

An SEO should play as large a role as necessary for developing content for a website. Depending on the size of the client the role an SEO will play in content development will likely decrease. If an SEO is working with a national brand, then there will be corporate copywriters dedicated to developing content, so an SEO will play a role in optimizing content and content strategy. 

However, for mom and pop businesses that are only able to hire a search agency, then the SEO is likely to be incredibly hands on with the development of the content. 

“Do you have a tip for Smashing Magazine readers about technical SEO?”

If you are looking to perform your own technical SEO updates for your site then make sure and only take tips from established industry pubs and experts. There is a lot of bad and/or outdated advice out there. 

If you are a larger brand, then hire a search agency with a proven track record in your category with account managers that you enjoy working with. 

SEO should never be taken for granted. Every business will benefit from the implementation of SEO best practices. 

As this conversation continues, I would love to hear from you on Twitter (@adamwagner4) or on your blog. I am glad to see that there are so many of us that are passionate enough to spend time defending our field. As long as this passion continues progress will continue as well. 

Author: Adam Wagner

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Dec 22 2012

Beautify your Search Results and Increase Organic Traffic with Schema.org

Schema.org is a new coding sintax based in html that was developed through a partnership between the major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo). Schema.org allows webmasters to markup their site and provide information to search engines that can be used to enhance the displayed search results. However, according to Matt Cutts, utilizing this schema set on your website does not currently influence SEO ranking factors, so your site is not likely to rank any better after implementing this markup. So, you are then likely asking why would I use this? Well, the schemas allow you to enhance your listing in search results. In this post, I am going to make an argument for why every website that provides information on a person, place or thing or that sells a product should be utilizing this new language. 

What is Schema.org?

Schema.org was launched on June 2, 2011 and it has seen relatively slow adoption rates (in my opinion) considering the huge potential it provides. Schema.org created a number of html tags that can used to describe objects on your webpage to help search engines pull out the most important information for their searchers.

The example of this markup provided by Schema.org utilizes the movie Avatar. Below is a little bit of code with the Schema.org elements bolded. Basically, the markup makes it explicitly clear to the crawler what role various names, dates, etc. play in regards to the given page. Then, this can be translated into beautified search results that provide the name of the director, the genre and anything else you may have provided to the search engines. 

<div itemscope itemtype ="http://schema.org/Movie">
  <h1 itemprop="name">Avatar</h1>
  <span>Director: <span itemprop="director">James Cameron</span> (born August 16, 1954)</span>
  <span itemprop="genre">Science fiction</span>
  <a href="../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html" itemprop="trailer">Trailer</a>
</div>

Who is Using it?

Schema.org has created a wide variety of markup language that can allow webmasters from a number of disciplines to take advantage of it. For example, the markup includes language for events, products, movies, music, recipes and more. 

Many large sites such as Food.com, Netflix and Ticketmaster have begun to take full advantage of schema.org.

Who is Not Using it?

Surprisingly though many retailers with brick and mortar roots have not yet jumped onto the bandwagon and they are definitely missing out. Sears, Walmart and Target are just some of the few that are not yet utilizing Schema.org.

Also, many of the largest e-commerce sites are still not fully implementing Schema.org, including Ebay and Amazon!

Benefits to Your Site

Now let me show you a case study that I found at Search Mojo’s blog focusing on a “tan chase lounge with storage”. This is the best way to illustrate why utilizing this markup is a no brainer. 

Overstock.com

Ebay.com

Sears.com

Can you tell who is using Schema.org markup? Are you more likely to engage with one of these results over another?

Overstock.com is the only site of the three that is using the markup and the search display is much more appealing to a searcher. (When more research comes out I will update this post with figures showing how much markup can increase engagement rates.)

By utilizing the markup Overstock.com was able to display the ratings and price of the product. This information is on the pages for all three of the sites, but by utilizing markup Overstock.com made it clear to the search engine where to look to find valuable information to display to searchers. 

The ratings information allows the result to pop in the rankings and provides more detailed information to the searcher, which lends credibility to the search result. All of these factors will create positive increases in engagement rates.

Implementation

The most difficult part about Schema.org is the additional time investment required for companies and SEOs. It can be very costly for large sites to go through and update existing pages with schema markup. 

However, the increased engagement rates and growth in organic traffic have the potential to boost ROI across the site by bringing more engaged searchers. 

Conclusion

No matter where your site currently is, schema markup should be added to your future on-page optimizations. As your SEO team updates existing pages and develops new pages they should simply implement markup as they optimize title tags and write meta-data. This time investment has potential for dramatic payoffs.

I encourage you to become an advocate for schema markup and to utilize it aggressively to beautify your displayed search results and to increase organic traffic.

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Dec 20 2012

Always Set Your Clients’ Expectations and they Will Never be Disappointed

image

Working with any type of client can be difficult, but small business owners provide a unique scenario when setting expectations because they often have little or no familiarity with how a given marketing medium should perform. Small business owners understand that marketing is critical, but they rarely have the training or knowledge to execute the proper marketing plans for their business. This is where we as marketers come in. We need to guide them, show them and teach them how to reach their customers. This can be a recipe for the ideal client or a disaster, it all depends on how their expectations are set at the onset of a campaign. You don’t want them to expect a $50 per month PPC budget to open up the flood gates of new customers.

Over the last few years I have been presented with the challenge of level setting with small business owners and I have experienced first hand the benefit of properly setting a client’s expectations. If you show them the path ahead of time they will have a much easier time navigating it and understanding their results. Here are a few things I have learned to help make this process easier.

Educate

Do not be afraid to educate them. Information is good. When I am speaking with a small business owner that is a potential client I always try and provide them with an in-depth explanation of what we are trying to achieve and how we are going to go about it. 

For example, I often find myself meeting with potential clients that are looking for SEO services, but they have no experience with SEO. All they know is that they want to rank better in search. When presented with this scenario I will start at the basics and provide an overview of SEO and how it works. This way they understand that I am the expert and it gives them a foundational level of understanding to be able to make decisions from.

Full-Disclosure

Provide your clients with as much information as possible and be completely transparent with them. If you are truly providing them with the best marketing strategy for their business then an abundance of information will only help justify this point. 

When presented with a large amount of data or the full consideration set for a problem the client can begin to realize just how valuable your expertise as a marketer are to them. If they do not see everything that is happening behind the scenes, then there is potential for them to over-simplify a task and undervalue the service you are providing them. 

Budgets and Timing

Always discuss what types of results clients should expect to receive with a given investment level. Every business owner wants to know how much it will cost and how long it will take for them to achieve their marketing goals. Being forward and realistic with this information helps build a level of trust and shows that you have experience with the presented scenario. 

Timing can be tricky to precisely predict, but even ballpark time estimates will help calm a client when they are making a marketing decision. 

Pictures

Do not be afraid to use visuals to illustrate your point. Oftentimes small business owners may have heard a term, but they may not fully know how it is executed in the market. For example, if you are pitching in a new PPC campaign make sure to include a variety of screenshots from relevant searches. This will validate the medium when they see competitors utilizing it as well and it will help lay a foundational understanding for future discussions. 

Analytics

Clients love analytics.Many small business owners have a Google Analytics account for their website, but they do not know what any of it means. If you are able to present this information to them in a way that is easily digestible and actionable they will eat it up (And if they do not currently have analytics in place, then you will be a hero by getting them set up). 

At the end of the day there are a variety of ways to set client expectations, and above we have only discussed a few. The important take away is that you engage in setting expectations properly from the beginning. Clients should be aware of possible shortcomings and hurdles ahead. Then, when these issues become a reality, you will be able to have an informed conversation with your clients. In an ideal world, when expectations are set perfectly there would never be a need for clients to be disappointed. However, we do not live in that world and so we can simply strive to provide our clients with the best strategy possible and an abundance of information to make informed decisions. 

3 notes

Nov 15 2012

A Quick SEO Trick for a Faster Website - Adjust Image Sizes

I came across this brilliant piece of information recently and just had to share it. 

Have you ever been tempted to upload a giant image to your blog or website via Wordpress and then have Wordpress auto-size it for you? 

Of course you have! We all have! This is one of the great inovations of a CMS that makes the lives of us non-developers so much easier. However, this trick is SEO fools-gold. 

The CMS simply plugs in code that tells the browser the size that the image should be viewed in. This means that every time a given page is loaded the browser must take the time to resize the image and adjust what is being viewed by a user. This can oftentimes be done is milliseconds, but as larger files and more content is placed on your site it will begin to slow down. It is like adding unnecessary weights to a sprinter. You want to have your site be as lean as possible. 

Thankfully there is an easy fix to this problem. You can use an image editing software such as Photoshop or Gimp (for those of us that are poor) to simply change the size of your images before uploading them onto your website. This way you can ensure that only images of the exact size are living on the site and there is no excess baggage. 

*When resizing or cropping the image to fit this is also a great time to update the title of the image to your perfectly optimized image title :) 

**Please note that I am a major advocate of using imagery in abundance on most websites. In this post, I just wanted to explain that it will benefit you to use appropriately sized images on your website. 

If you did not catch this yet the SEO benefit to using exact sized images is that Google places ranking value on the speed of your site. So, a faster version of your site will receive more Google love and you will likely see increased rankings. 

Good luck!

4 notes

Nov 03 2012

My Response - Ted Ives’ Link Building Chart

Hey SEO fanatics you have to check out the below link building chart. It is often very difficult to explain link building to potential or current clients that are newer to SEO. In the last six months I have been a part of several pitches to small business owners that are search marketing newbies. This is both exciting and challenging at the same time. When you have to start a pitch with “Let me start by explaining what SEO is and how it works…” you know it is going to be a long afternoon. 

With that said it is often much easier to guide a client that is new to SEO towards your recommendation. I always try and do my best to be transparent with clients, and so it helps to have tools such as the below chart to explain to them why I would recommend using certain strategies of link building over others. 

Overall there are only two strategies that I would argue should be placed in a different bucket - “Answering Q&A Questions” and “Article Marketing” should be moved. 

I would move “Answering Q&A Questions” to “Worth Considering” instead of “Highly Effective”. Most Q&A sites are full of spammy comments and bad links. Therefore, you have to be very careful with the Q&A site that is chosen because there is a high potential for this type of site to be in a bad link neighborhood. 

"Article Marketing" is now an outdated form of link building that was once highly effective, but with all of the Panda and Penguin updates it has been relegated to the tool kits of spammers. Web 2.0 article syndication sites have been devalued to the point of minimal return on the investment necessary for creating the content. I would therefore create a new bucket for this strategy labeled "Devalued".

The rest of the strategies are very appropriately labeled and described. Let me know what you think about this chart. 

Linking Strategies Taxonomy *click to enlarge*

Linking Strategies Taxonomy *click to enlarge* 

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