Archive for September, 2009

How good is your landing page?

You probably use banner ads and text ads to entice viewers to take a peek at your web pages. But you want your visitors to do more than peek. How can you maximize that possibility?

Consider this scenario. You write a text ad promising a free report for download. Someone clicks the ad, and they go to a sales page for a $197 software package. Now, you wrote an ad that made the visitor click (a click-thru – woohoo!), but you probably won’t get a sale (or conversion). How come?

Putting aside honesty in advertising, your landing page did not match your ad. Your visitor was expecting something and didn’t get it.

Now think about this. You show a banner to join the latest hot business opportunity. Do you send the visitor to the main sales page, a splash page, or a squeeze page? That depends on your style. Some people like to have all the information up front. Some people just need the pertinent details. Some people won’t mind joining a list to get more information. Who do you advertise to?

Your ad should match your landing page. Your landing page should appeal to your target market. Lots to think about when planning your ad campaigns.

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Why Linkbait is a Tactic the Search Engines Will Always Value

Posted by randfish

There have been more than a few debates and suppositions over the years about the potential value of linkbait/viral content strategies and whether search engines will always reward these practices. Today (actually, it’s late at night here in Oslo), I wanted to tackle this debate and succinctly present reasons why I believe this methodology will remain powerful and effective in the long run.

First – a quick definition of linkbait as an SEO pursuit:

Linkbait/Viral Content: The practice of crafting web content to attract attention and awareness in the form of natural links given by bloggers, news media, researchers, forum posters and other website contributors. This content can include any combination of static or interactive elements, but is almost always targeted at a specific subset of web audience members who have the ability to influence/create links, share content and spread a message virally (see Linkerati).

Second – a peek at some infographics that help explain why this trend is so powerful:

Social Technographics Ladder via Forrester Research

Social Participants as Percentages
(SOURCE: Forrester Research via the Groundswell Blog)

Just three years ago, those of engaging in linkbait were targeting 30-50% fewer people than today. That doesn’t always mean it’s easier (in fact, it may be harder, particularly on uber-popular viral sites like Digg & Techcrunch), but it does mean the opportunity to influence has risen dramatically.

So why do I feel so strongly that this carries little to no risk of penalization or devaluation?

  1. Viral content is at the core of exactly how the engines want to operate. Search engines are, since their inception in the 1990′s, attempting to use the web’s link graph to identify content that people have found fundamentally interesting and worth sharing. Linkbait is exactly this – every link to a piece of viral content is created independently by individuals who think it’s valuable enough to spread.
  2. Devaluing "linkbait" carries an incredibly high "slippery slope" risk. Once could easily make the argument that every website is technically designed to be linkbait and thus, every natural link should be "suspect" (if linkbait was to be considered a manipulative tactic). The fundamental concept of product development for the web is actually based on the same principles as viral content – site builders are trying to make sites and information that people find compelling and want to use + share; penalizing this practice seems to contradict the very idea of the web’s link graph.
  3. Search engines have always touted that so-called "natural links" those that are independently created, editorially given and meant to serve as an honest recomendation for a URL’s worthiness are the most desirable and positive kinds of links. This is precisely the type of link attracted by linkbait, in precisely this manner. Viral content is launched, promoted and hopefully seen by individuals who may like it enough to share it and link to it. There’s little else on the web that can attract "natural" links.
  4. Linkbait is "great content" – the very thing engines and engineers are constantly recommending as the core strategy for good SEO. To go against this principle would be to invalidate more than a decade of advice. When linkbait isn’t "great" it tends not to attract links and the engines’ work is done for them.

Like anything in the SEO world, there are higher and lower risk methods for engaging in this practice. Former SEOmozzer Matt Inman wrote a post highlighting some of the most dangerous implementations of manipulative link attraction, but these are most definitely the exception rather than the rule. A rough risk scale might look something like:

  • No Risk – Production of relevant (on-topic with the site’s offerings) viral content with no manipulative link schemes promoted ethically and organically on and off the web.
  • Low Risk – Production of relevant viral content with potentially manipulative promotion (paying those with powerful social media accounts to help "push" the content into visibility).
    This is low risk in my opinion because the links are still created and given organically and editorially. Even if you manged to, for example, bribe Digg into promoting your story on the homepage, if that story attracts natural links from bloggers, writers, journalists, website owners, etc. it’s still fulfilled the search engines’ principles of high quality content that naturally derived editorial links.
  • Moderate Risk – Production of somewhat "off-topic" linkbait that has only a loose thread tie to the content of the site.
    While I don’t believe the links will be devalued, it’s possible that they won’t provide as much help to the other sections of the site or it’s overall domain authority and ability to push up the rankings universally across the domain.
  • High Risk - The combination of off-topic linkbait and manipulative push practices, possibly with other less-than-fully-honest tactics like highly manipulative or irrelevant anchor text pointing to the content’s "sponsor" or "creator" (typically, this is fine to do, but when employing certain types of "off-topic" anchor text, you need to be carfeful).
  • Extreme Risk – Creating content that attracts natural adoption of link code that recommends or points to something other than the original piece intended by the link creator. This could happen by crafting micro-sites on a topic, attracting links and redirecting them to off-topic, commercially focused pages/sites; embedding links into a "copy + paste this code" piece that visitors may not realize links to a location they didn’t intend to endorse; etc.

You can probably tell that I’m a big believer in and supporter of viral content. I actually maintain a list of cool viral content projects that I’m impressed by, and I thought to end this piece, I’d share some of those:

If you have differing opinions about how the search engines might treat viral content/linkbait SEO strategies, I look forward to chatting in the comments :-)

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HubSpot TV – Conversation and Reputation with Guest Justin Levy


Episode #59 – September 25th, 2009
(Episode Length: 21 minutes, 30 seconds

Intro

Justin Levy of New Marketing Labs

  • Inbound Marketing Summit: Boston! October 7-8 at Gillette Stadium.
  • Write a blog post about why you should win a free ticket!
  • Presentation at IMS: what’s it about?

Headlines

Brands in Public

  • Launching Brands in Public
  • “Squidoo
    has built several hundred pages, each one about a major brand…Each
    page collects tweets, blog posts, news stories, images, videos and
    comments about a brand.”
  • $400 to develop the page on your brand
  • A Superior Internet Marketing Company
  • “Wow.
    I’d personally like to welcome Seth Godin to the world of brandjacking
    and hostage taking. I didn’t know you had it in you.”
  • Adjusting as we go
  • Made the pages opt in vs. opt out
  • Marketing
    Takeaway:
    Online reputation management is important, gets lots of good
    content about your brand in the SERPs before you have to pay someone
    like Seth to clean them up.

Facebook vs. Google?

  • Will Facebook kill Google?
  • “Facebook ads are actually more effective than Google Ads and do a better job of getting them in front of their target audiences.”
  • Christine
    Caravo, founder of gift box company Carebox – “I found that I got much
    more bang for my buck with Facebook,” she says. “I went though $100 on
    Google Adwords in a couple days and only got 34 clicks. I spent $60 on
    the same campaign on Facebook and got 300 clicks.
  • Facebook has tripled the number of advertisers using its platform over the past year.
  • Marketing Takeaway: Organic always beats paid, but test out different CPC platforms to find which (if any) work best for you.

The Looking Glass from Microsoft

  • Microsoft’s Looking Glass Will Let Marketers Peer Into A Real-Time Social Stream
  • “Microsoft
    is going to let marketers and advertisers dip their toes into the
    social stream…Looking Glass will aggregate feeds from Twitter,
    Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other social media sites and will also be
    able connect with CRMs, databases, service centers and more.”
  • Marketing Takeaway: The conversation is happening weather you’re listening or not, so you better start.

OneForty Twitter Applications on the Wall…

  • Twitter Gets an Unofficial App Store [INVITES]
  • “Laura
    Fitton (@pistachio), oneforty has created a marketplace that offers up
    more than 1300 tools and services, complete with user reviews,
    descriptions, screenshots, links to more in-depth features, and live
    Twitter comments going on around the web.”
  • Marketing Takeaway: There are a ton of apps that can help you use and market more effectivley on Twitter so go check then out.

Forum Fodder

  • Prish: (from www.inboundmarketing.com/forum) We’re going to test this as a content delivery medium
    til the end of the year. While we’re building a modest following, we
    want to develop success criteria to justify further spend….What makes
    for a successful video podcasting series?

Marketing Tip of the Week: Instead of just reacting to negative stories, get good conversations happening before you need them.

Closing

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Examining the Top 150 In-Linked Posts at SEOmoz

Posted by MikeTek

This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

Though it’s certainly not the most hyped, an SEOmoz tool I took an immediate fascination with is the Top Pages tool (found in SEOmoz Labs - PRO only). What it does is very simple yet powerful: you give it a domain, and it returns a list of the pages at that domain that are linked to by the most root domains (sorted highest to lowest).

I’m a firm believer that the second best way to learn is by example (the first is to try yourself and fail repeatedly – if you can afford it). 

Since it’s no secret that the SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog is one of the most widely-read in the space (with ~50k subscribers) and Rand & Co. are quite successful at building links I thought I’d turn the Top Pages tool back on SEOmoz and examine the most linked-to posts at the blog here.

The aim: to study a prime example of a link-attracting blog in our space and draw some insight from the style, content and topics of posts that have attracted the most links for SEOmoz – insight that we can (hopefully) all use to improve our own content creation methods.

Note: This data represents a snapshot in time – so some of these numbers will have changed by the time you read this (if SEOmoz has updated Linkscape by then). I also experienced some odd results involving 301 redirects – old blog URLs with ID variables which were 301′d to new URLs weren’t showing up properly in Linkscape (the data set that Top Pages is based on). In short, I had to manually add up some of the In-Linking Domain counts. Yes, it was tedious.

The Data

I decided to cap the sample at the top 150 posts. This was mainly to keep the list manageable and focus on the real "home run" successes.

I gathered the following metrics:

  • Post Title
  • Post URL
  • Post Category
  • Number of in-linking domains
  • Post is a list? (Ex: Top 10 Ways to X…)
  • Post contains images/video?
  • Post originated at YouMoz?

On to the meat and potatoes…

Does the list post format ("X Ways to…") attract more links?

The value of the list format for posts and how this helps your content go viral is beaten to death – but we still accept that the format works. How well has it worked for SEOmoz?

Number of Posts in Top 150: Lists vs Non-List Posts

Of the top 150 posts, 38 of them were presented in the list format. The remaining 112 posts in the Top 150 were not presented in the list format.

Total In-Linking Domains: Lists vs. Non-list Posts

While list-oriented posts are commonly considered a powerful way to make your content more shareable (and attract links) the most successful link building posts at SEOmoz were writtein in a non-list format.

However, list posts can still be quite successful in attracting links (see below).

The Top 5 In-Linked List Posts at SEOmoz:

  1. 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic (275 In-Linking Domains)
  2. 15 CSS Properties You Probably Never Use (but perhaps should) (139 In-Linking Domains)
  3. 11 Best Practices for URLs (90 In-Linking Domains)
  4. My Personal Opinion – 90% of the Rankings Equation Lies in These 4 Factors (89 In-Linking Domains)
  5. 10 Remarkably Effective Strategies for Driving Traffic (88 In-Linking Domains)

The Top 5 In-Linked Non-List Posts at SEOmoz:

  1. The Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet (312 In-Linking Domains) Nice one, Danny!
  2. Canonical URL Tag – The Most Important Advancement in SEO Practices Since Sitemaps (139 In-Linking Domains)
  3. Matt Cutts on Nofollow, Links-Per-Page and the Value of Directories (139 In-Linking Domains)
  4. How to Ruin a Web Design – The Design Curve (117 In-Linking Domains)
  5. How Google’s Rankings Algorithm Has Changed Over Time (94 In-Linking Domains)

Do images/videos in posts help attract links?

Most bloggers accept that a post with images tends to be more scannable and sharable. Rand has commented in the past about the boost including supporting graphics in posts provides. How has this translated into SEOmoz’s own link profile?

Number of Posts in Top 150: Posts w/ Images/Video vs. Text Only

Of the 150 posts in this sample, nearly a 2/3 majority (90) of them contain either images or video content. The remaining 60 posts were text-only. 

Total In-Linking Domains: Posts w/Images/Video vs. Text Only

SEOmoz has been more successful in attracting links with posts containing images/video than text-only posts. This might sound like common sense to a blogger, but it’s nice to see it backed up with data. The takeaway here: it’s worth taking the time to find or create supporting graphs/illustrations to include in your posts.

What post topics(categories) attract the most links?

Number of Posts in "Top 150" per Category

The two categories with the most posts in the Top 150 were Link Building and Technical Issues. These two also attracted the most in-linking domains overall:

Total In-Linking Domains by Category

The real stand-out in terms total number of in-linking domains is the Technical Issues category – followed by Link Building. This is great information when you’re deciding what topic to focus on for your next blog post or article.

It’s also worth noting that the Blogging category, certainly not a focal topic for SEOmoz, was third in attracting the most in-linking domains overall. Think Linkerati – bloggers are a group with the means and motivation to link (and there are loads of bloggers out there). Not a bad segment to aim your next post at. :)

Here are the most in-linked posts from each category (note: I’m not including categories with only one post):

How about YOUmoz posts?

Out of the Top 150 In-Linked posts at the SEOmoz main blog 9 originated at YOUmoz. Let’s hear it for these mozzers:

There are undoubtedly other ways to slice these metrics up – as well as metrics I didn’t include in my research. I encourage anyone with the inclination to download the spreadsheet I compiled and chop it to bits. Just one request: keep me out of it, I’m tired of looking at this data. ;)

About Mike Tekula

Mike is a Web Developer and SEO Consultant working and residing in Long Island, NY. He founded Unstuck Digital, an Internet Marketing agency, in 2008 and blogs at UnstuckDigital.com. He also rambles at Twitter.com/MikeTek.

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Thinking About Using Facebook as Your Company Webpage? Think Again!


With all of the social media options available to us, it’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement and abandon traditional online marketing tactics. Suddenly the “enhancement” to your web presence becomes your entire web presence.

Is there really anything wrong with this? Is it okay to use social media sites in place of a standard website?

Facebook, Fan PageThis is what InboundMarketing.com member Kim Kolb recently wondered. Her client, a restaurant and bar, was using their Facebook and Twitter profiles to spread the word about their business in place of a standard website. Kim reached out to the InboundMarketing.com discussion forum members to ask “… as much as I do think a website is necessary [what are] some thoughts from the community? I think that all their social media and networking would enhance a website …”

Here are the top take aways from the forum:

Owning Your Own Content Is Vital

By solely using Facebook, Kim’s client is giving up a lot of control over their content. As user Bee Hobson points out, Facebook states that “Profiles can only be used to represent an individual, and must be held under an individual name.” If Facebook finds that a business is doing just this, they can remove the profile and wipe out the bulk of the company’s online presence.  Not to mention that Facebook or Twitter could make site changes that negatively impact a business and there’s nothing that the user could really do about it.

Bee suggests that businesses create a blog on a custom domain as part of their online strategy.  This way not only do they own all the content they are creating and are still building a community, but they can use the blog entries to feed their Facebook and Twitter pages. The effort they have to put into the blog is balanced by the time they’ll save on other sites.

Let Your Creativity Shine

A creative, well-built website says a lot about your business. But, as HubSpotter Rick Burnes points out, with Facebook and Twitter you have to operate within their platform, and there’s only so much that you can do with those tools. No matter how much time and money you spend, there are always limits.

Instead, use these resources to build a website. If finding someone to build the site is an issue, there’s also the option of using a CMS.

All that said, this doesn’t mean that you should totally abandon Facebook. Instead of a personal profile for the business, consider creating a Fan Page. Pages have unique features that allow Fans to further engage with the business more than a simple profile allows. If allowed, users can post pictures, comments, start discussions and more.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Search Traffic

Facebook and Twitter only allow for so much search traffic to occur. And often times, those customers that seek out a business’ profile on Facebook already are familiar with it – it’s great to engage your current customer base, but what about new customers? How do they find you? Having a website and building landing pages are vital to increasing your search traffic and leads.

In conclusion, while Facebook is a great tool to use as part of your online marketing strategy, it’s not the be all to end all. And, as InboundMarketing.com user Bee Hobson says “the world is spinning towards inbound marketing, no longer can we just tell consumers what they want,” we have to engage them in multiple ways on multiple channels.

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Whiteboard Friday Interview: The Bing Team

Posted by great scott!

This week Rand and I had a chance to head over to Microsoft headquarters and sit down with Eric, Rajesh, and Alessandro from Bing, everyone’s favorite new search upstart.  The guys were gracious enough to let us into their lair and share their insights on the search landscape and what we can expect from Bing in the future.  Tune in and watch the video to learn what the Bing team has to say about:

  • How Bing’s marketshare growth will impact search.
  • What the potential Bing/Yahoo! partnership could mean for the competitive landscape.
  • What webmasters need to do to optimize for Bing.
  • How Bing’s Webmaster Tools can help you identify links to bad neighborhoods.
  • What Bing’s domain and page scores mean and how you can use them.
  • How Bing provides link data and whether or not it will still be available in the future.
  • Requirements, features, and upcoming developments for Bing’s amazing IIS Toolkit.

Yeah, seriously, these guys really opened up and let us know the inside scoop straight from the hallowed halls of Redmond.  They’re an awesome group and they’re working hard to create a level of transparency, openness, and community rarely seen from the engines. In fact, if you have product ideas, questions, or suggestions, just go to the Bing Forums and jump into the conversation, the Bing team avidly reads and responds to the forum feedback.

p.s. from Rand – Just wanted to update with a few important links from the discussions:

I’m looking forward to some future discussions around more specifics of SEO best practices with the Bing team – if you’ve got items you’d like me to ask them about, don’t be shy! We’re planning to have a few more meetings in the upcoming months. Oh – and since Eric was modest and didn’t mention it in person – here’s the latest on Bing’s US market share increases.

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