Search engine optimization and link development strategies based on ethical principles, which are mostly focused on scalability and growing business sales as well as conversions.

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22 Link Building Tips from @xightph

Links will always play an important role in the search, aside from the fact that it’s the core in which most search engines’ algorithms are based on – it’s still the best way to rank content.

Experts also believe that links are still very much important, though it’s known that Google will most probably just value those that are evidently natural and non-manipulative.

Anyway, for the past year and a half, our company/team has been known to specialize in this area of online marketing (although we also offer other technical marketing services, our brand has just been so attached to this particular marketing practice).

Given that we’ve been doing this for quite some time now, I just thought of sharing the things we’ve learned from working with dozens of clients (from different countries, industries, working on various business models), as well as the mindsets that we’ve grown to believe in as a team when it comes to implementing link development strategies.

1. Diversity is one of the key factors to succeed in online marketing these days. That mindset pretty much applies in link building as well.

And the best way to get a good variety of link types (through voluntary given citations/mentions) is to make sure that you’re promoting a great product/service that has a strong unique selling point, which will make people want to share it with their friends.

2. There are 4 major factors that make brands/sites earn editorial and contextual links – content, relationships, expertise and unique value. Being consistent in building on at least 2 of these main factors can certainly help you get ton of hard-to-replicate links to your site.

factors3. Invest on continuous creation of evergreen content assets that aim to solve perennial problems or frequently asked questions in your space. It’s the best way to scale link building, since they’ll almost always be searched and most likely be used as a reference by people finding your content.

link-growth

4. There is more value and advantages in contributing content regularly on high-traffic industry publications than submitting one-time guest posts on hundreds of mediocre blogs. Focus on 5 – 10 top industry sites (that your target audience go to) and get more visibility from them.

5. Create high-value content assets before launching a guest blogging campaign. It’s easier to get guest post opportunities when your prospects already have an idea of the quality of the content you produce. Guest blogging is also more efficient when primarily used to support your site’s strong content – wherein it’s more appropriate to include in-content links back to your site’s relevant assets.

content asset

6. Invest on developing redistributable content such as images (data visualization, memes, cinemagraphs, etc…), slide presentations, videos/kinetic typographies, PDF/whitepapers and badges. Aside from getting natural links from people who might reuse them, these content initiatives can also help you connect with other content publishers, drive traffic and build brand awareness.

7. Invite authority guest bloggers. It’s the easiest way to bait links – knowing that most seasoned bloggers reference their own works. It’s also a great way to expand your network and following base.

8. Build alliances. Make friends with entities/organizations that share the same ideals as yours (preferably emerging influencers in your industry). That way it will be easier to syndicate your content (as well as theirs) – which exposes your content to a wider audience and can result to higher chances of getting natural links.

9. Apply lead generation techniques when doing link building to get more results from it. Find and participate on specifically targeted discussions using search phrases and search operators that target people particularly looking for solutions (ex: “where can I buy + keyword”, “need help with + keyword”, etc…).

search lead gen

10. Promote useful content where it’s appropriate. There are so many channels where you can promote or build links to your content such as related discussions on other blogs, communities/forums, Q&A sites, and even using paid social ads.

But what’s really important is to ensure that your content will really add value to the discussion and to those who can read them.

comment

11. Always track for mentions (linked or unlinked), yours and competitors’. Asking for links that you’ve really earned (unlinked brand mentions or mentions pointing to your social profiles) is the easiest way to get links through outreach.

Tracking your competitors’ brand mentions is also important, as this can help you find new prospects that you can engage and be connected with. You can use Google Alerts or Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer to track these mentions.

12. Think branding. Link building is more efficient when used as a brand building tool. And given that Google is favoring brands on search results, then link building (when done right) can definitely hit more birds with one stone.

Focus more on branded anchor texts (your brand name, products, events, content assets, etc…) when building artificial links (awareness > link).

13. Aim for links that will get clicked, because they’re the ones that can most likely influence search rankings. Some of the most known factors that make links more clickable:

  • Prominent position in the document (the higher, the better).
  • Links that have highly descriptive and longer strings of anchor texts tend be clicked more.
  • If the link is on a high-traffic page.
  • Sentiments of the texts that surround the link.

14. Strengthen your links’ attributes with the help of other signals for them to pass more value (ranking power) to your site.

link attributes

15. Always check assisted conversions (on Google Analytics). It will allow you to identify and understand link types and sources that are sending qualified traffic and conversions to your site, which you can develop a process to make it replicable.

assisted conversions

16. Comment marketing is both overlooked and misused, but it’s definitely one of the most effective inbound marketing techniques out there. Here’s why:

  • It allows you to build relationships with other content publishers.
  • It can help you establish your brand as an expert – particularly if you’re contributing high-value information in the discussions.
  • It opens a lot of opportunities for linking (like being invited to become a contributor, or having your opinions cited by the publishers you communicate with).

Always consider your comments as a part of your content efforts.

17. Start learning how real writers reference other people’s works, because that’s how natural links are done. Use partial match and highly descriptive anchor texts, and understand the concept of co-occurrence.

18. Internal links are the most powerful type of link that you have full control of – make use of them wisely. Make your site’s stronger content (that are receiving natural links, social signals and constant traffic/activity) internally link to your site’s key pages that need more ranking power.

19. Be open to share internal data, especially to content publishers.

sharing data

20. Try to get links from pages that are already ranking well on search results or submit content to domains that have strong ranking ability (high search share). Getting your brand published on domains that have higher potentials of ranking for your long-tails can constantly send relevant traffic to your site.

linkable-asset

21. Update past successful link baits or content assets hosted within your site. I tried this a few months ago on this post, and it doubled the social shares, number of comments as well as the links it generated for that particular content.

updated post

You can even implement the same approach when reaching out to other publishers/bloggers (where you can suggest helping them update their old, but still useful content). Use Bill Sebald’s Outdated Content Finder to track pages that need to be updated.

outdated content finder

22. Use the linker outreach method to get your content in front of prospects that really cares or genuinely interested about it.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

PS: We’ll be launching our company’s website soon, so it would be really awesome if you can follow us also on Twitter @xightph for more updates. Thanks!

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Advanced SEO in 2013 – SEMTrends 2013 Presentation

Here is my slide deck from SEMTrends 2013 that was held yesterday in Iloilo City, Philippines. The topics I covered on my presentation include some of the most important factors used in the realm of search today such as on-site technology, link development, authority building, online branding, and a few tricks on Analytics.

I had an awesome time with the other speakers – Mark Acsay and Grant Merriel, as well as the event organizers (SEO.org.ph Iloilo chapter) , attendees and friends from the SEO Organization Philippines (Ricky and Cell).

Great people, food and booze, as always. See you guys again next year!

Just me, doing my thing.

If you liked this presentation, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Creating Great Experience for SEO

Improving a website’s usage data is very essential in SEO nowadays, as these signals highly reflect the quality of the site and the level of experience it can provide to its users.

Another reason why optimizing for experience is so important in this new age of search is because of the fact that Google Panda filters are now being integrated to Google’s search ranking algorithm.

If in case you’re wondering what Panda has to do with experience, here’s a brief description of what the recent Panda updates do:

  • It targets poor-content pages (pages with low user activity and short-clicks from search results).
  • It targets duplicate content pages (as they also have low user activity).
  • Search listings (amount of pages accessible through search) that have high bounce rates/short-clicks.

Google has also updated their SEO advice recently that strongly hints that webmasters should focus on improving site experience:

“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”

And Rand discussed this update from Google and shared an easy-to-digest list of categories that SEOs should be optimizing their site for in order to rank better on search results:

  1. Make the page more relevant
  2. Make the page higher quality
  3. Make the page more well-cited
  4. Make the page more accessible
  5. Make the page’s listing in the search results more compelling
  6. Make the site the page is hosted on more relevant
  7. Make the site the page is hosted on higher quality
  8. Make the site the page is hosted on more well-cited
  9. Make the site the page is hosted on more accessible
  10. Make the site the page is hosted on a more recognizable and compelling brand

SEO as a marketing practice has clearly evolved – wherein optimizing for humans is far more important than optimizing for engines.

So what are the things you can do to improve the overall experience that your site can offer to its users?

UX and Usability

Have a deeper grasp of what your target customers want for them to explore more on your site. Making a good impression (by making sure that they’ll find your site useful/valuable) is very crucial – given that it can affect other areas of your campaign (particularly in retaining visitors and improving site usage).

Sabina Idler did a great piece a month ago on understanding the user experience, which explains comprehensively how each aspect of UX can be implemented. The dissected aspects of UX include:

  • Usability (availability & accessibility, clarity, learnability, credibility and relevancy)
  • Aesthetics (making the design appealing, effective, pleasurable and memorable)
  • Customer service (building trust and relationships with users – just like SingleHop‘s approach to customer service, making it very visible on every page of the site)

singlehop

  • Brand consistency (which results to customer loyalty)
  • Personal impact (as positive emotions help people remember brands)
  • Readability (content must be easy-to-comprehend and scannable for skim readers)
  • Easy-to-follow site navigational structure (like using breadcrumb links to pass ranking power back to your site’s major categories)

breadcrumb links

For more detailed tips on usability, you definitely have to check out Jason Delodovici’s guide on improving your site’s usability.

“Every page is a landing page” mantra

Pages that you allow to be accessible through search are considerably landing pages that can send leads/sales to your business.

Adapt conversion optimization strategies, not just on your site’s key pages, but also on your overall content strategy.

There are several tactics that you can implement to your site’s inner pages to improve their conversions, or to just help you get your visitors closer to your end-goal. Jessica Collier wrote an exceptional post on different approaches that you can try on optimizing landing pages, which includes:

  • Segmented experience – which focuses on optimizing for unique visitor experience through building different specialized landing pages or content targeted to different set of audiences, rather than building a single landing page targeted to all types of audience. This is also a great method to use in growing your site’s content portfolio.
  • Use of social logins – given that it helps improve user-experience through reduced form fields, faster access and accuracy in data collection.
  • Progressive conversion – wherein the method aims to get multiple interactions from users, which is a better way to build trust and to have better chances of having them convert on your end-goal conversion action.
  • Device optimization – using responsive web design to make sure that your pages are highly-optimized for any device.
  • Creating effective CTAs (on all of your site’s searchable pages)- making sure that they are in context with the content they are hosted on and making them very visible.

Resource-Landing-Page-2

  • Considering eye-tracking and heat maps could also be very beneficial in improving your pages’ ability to attract, retain and convert visitors.

You can also check out Unbounce’s unique landing page strategies for more ideas. And for more conversion optimization tips, you can check out these guides:

Improving visitor engagement, long-click and reducing bounce rate

Improved visitors’ time spent on site/pages is a strong indicator of great experience. There are many ways to optimize your site’s ability to engage visitors such as

  • Making sure that your pages’ titles are accurate and match the information provided by their content, to prevent incoming search visitors from bouncing back to the search results.
  • Displaying social proof and trust indicators in the site’s key entrances (like what Coops and Cages did to their key pages that increased their conversions by 40%).

coopsandcages

  • Increasing internal links in your pages’ content. This can help make your visitors stay longer, especially if you’re internally linking to other useful and relevant resources hosted within your site.
  • Improving readability by testing different fonts, changing content structure (like breaking long paragraphs or designing content for skim readers), and testing/using better page headlines.
  • Blocking access to poor-content and duplicate pages in the site (by adding the noindex tag on these pages). This will improve your site’s ranking power, since it won’t be displaying any unimportant pages on search results.

Site Speed

Google is obsessed with speed, as they try to get people to use the Internet more. There are many ways to improve your website’s performance in terms of speed, especially nowadays that there are available tools that can guide you in optimizing your site – such as Page Speed and Pingdom.

Google’s search team has also been very transparent about site speed being a huge ranking factor in their algorithm. The good thing is that there are tons of available resources on how you can optimize your site’s speed, and you can check out some of them below:

Learning from Analytics data

Your analytics data can help you better understand what your users want and look for. Some of the areas where you can discover more opportunities to improve your content and business strategy are:

  • Your site’s worst landing pages (pages on your site that have high bounce rates and low engagement rates) – as these insights can help you improve them as well as your approach in optimizing all of the site’s pages.
  • Keywords that send good volume of traffic but with no conversions or have low engagement rate. Identifying these keywords and understanding why people aren’t converting can help you in optimizing their designated landing pages.
  • Site search data. As this can get you more information on what your visitors are looking for – which can help you identify other topic areas that your audience is also interested in. For more in-depth tips, you can check out this guide on using site search data to improve content strategy from Search Engine Land.

site search data

Targeted outreach and content distribution

The more you’re visible on highly relevant traffic-referring sources/sites, the more you are able to generate highly targeted and easily-engaged visitors.

Associating your site with other authority online publications where your target audiences are can extremely help you grow your site’s usage signals, especially when people are sharing your content (which is another strong indicator of quality experience).

Focus on acquiring links, coverage and exposure that can generate more actions on your site. This is doable when you’re getting links/mentions from the right places (on sites where your target market is).

Some of the marketing activities that you do to get more qualified traffic (that will actually do stuff when they’re already on your site):

  • Regularly contribute content and/or participate on discussions on high-traffic sites that are topically relevant to yours.
  • Reach out and connect with industry influencers who’ll find value in and most likely share your product/content to their network/followers.
  • Continuously grow your site’s content assets and keep on educating your audience, so that people will have more reasons to share, subscribe and interact with your brand.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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How to develop ROI-driven Inbound Marketing Campaigns

Inbound marketing has proven itself to be very effective in terms of helping small to enterprise-level brands reach business-related goals.

This marketing process involves a series of data-driven key initiatives. But the one key component that makes any form of marketing campaign actionable and successful is making certain that every action is goal-oriented.

goal-setting

Aligning methods/tactics to the business’ targets is crucial from start to end. Because this assures that every initiative will have impact (whether it’s big or small) to the business’ long-term goals – and this is the bottom line of what we’re doing.

It’s imperative to have a deeper grasp of what your client or your own business aims to achieve, as this makes it easier to determine which marketing channels to tap and take advantage of.

methods

There are several online marketing practices that are within the inbound marketing realm, and there are also ton of ways to make certain that each approach will be result-driven.

Will this action help us achieve our goals?

Keyword Research, Content Strategy & Consumer Insights

The best way to optimize for searchers and search engines is to be able to provide the information (in great detail and presentation) that your target audience are specifically searching for.

As I’ve mentioned on one of my recent blog posts (on how I win in search and content marketing), it all boils down to understanding what your target audience wants, needs and obviously seek for.

And again, goal setting plays a big role in SEO as well as in building a solid content strategy. Determine how your content will contribute to your organization and consider them as brand assets that can help:

  • Build authority and strengthen brand presence.
  • Generate leads and/or close sales.
  • Nurture potential customers and retain existing customers.

Start with FAQs. Because this is what your target market will continuously search for. Focus your content strategy on topic areas that have greater demand and likeliness to convert readers.

People search for answers. And it’s our job to make it easier for them to find the solutions.

There are many ways to identify and understand what a business’ target consumers may need in terms of information:

  • Getting more search query and content ideas by using keyword research tools.
  • Using Consumer Surveys to get actual insights from your target audience.
  • Studying popular communities (forums, social groups, blogs) in your industry and taking note of the most commonly discussed topics.
  • Using social listening tools, like Topsy, to gather topic ideas that are shareable and have strong social traction.

Integrating consumer insights with your SEO and content marketing will allow you to drive more targeted traffic to your site.

Another advantage is that it’ll be easier to tailor your content assets’ CTAs and special offerings based on what your target consumers need and will most likely convert to.

For more extensive tips on this area, you can also check Heidi Cohen’s checklist for content planning.

Authority Building

Establishing your brand as an authority or expert in your field can heavily influence how people interact with your brand – which often leads to better search visibility (since Google favour brands) and better conversions.

Aside from helping improve brand equity, being an authority may also have an indirect, but positive impact on a brand’s market and mind share.

That’s why investing on building a strong online brand presence is very important these days, as it can be an unfair advantage for a business competing for online-driven customers.

So what are the steps that companies can take to build themselves as an authority in their online space?

Content development

Being consistent in pushing out – not just great content – but content that will certainly be useful and compelling to your audience is the most fundamental step to becoming an authority on the web.

I’ve mentioned this as well on a post I’ve written few weeks ago – that the other key to winning in content marketing is to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ content campaigns.

As these insights will help you build a robust content strategy, which are based on your competitors’ flaws and efficiencies.

Focus on USP

Aim to become a top player in a niche in your industry. Because it will be easier to expand and target a wider audience once you’ve already proven your brand to be an authority.

Getting more coverage for your content and press mentions for your brand (through online/offline activations) will also be a lot easier if your unique value proposition stands out from the rest of your competition.

Strategic content partnerships

Build relationships and establish partnerships with other known publications in your industry. Identify sites where your target audience are, and make your brand more visible on these channels through:

  • Actively participating on their communities’ discussions (blogs, forums, etc…).
  • Regularly contributing content to absorb more readers back to your site (guest columns).
  • Inviting their authors to contribute content to your site as well.

These partnerships can be a powerful asset that can constantly bring more targeted traffic to your site, and improve social proof (that can build trust and brand perception). Think Distilled and Moz.

rand+wil

Social

Identify industry influencers that you want your brand to be associated with (use Followerwonk). Then build alliances to improve or semi-automate your content distribution – and to attract more social shares and followers as well.

For instance, if you look at Link Club, it’s a group that’s comprised of thought-leaders in the SEO industry who specialize in link building. Each individual is helping out each other to get their own personal brands out in the open.

This type of partnership/content collaboration is definitely beneficial to everyone who’s part of the alliance (which can help in terms of branding, lead generation and in discovering more business opportunities).

Email marketing and list building

The more you’re driving targeted traffic to your site through search and authority building (via content, strategic partnerships, link development, social media, etc…), the more it will be important for your organization to have a stronger grip of your continuously growing audience.

And this is where email marketing comes in. Since this is a channel that you have full control of. A robust email list can give your business the capacity to draw visitors (who’re already aware of who you are) whenever you need it, which also have higher chances of converting.

The key to building a strong email list starts with building the right traffic to your site, because they have the reasons to sign-up – which will make it easier for you to grow your list.

Kristi Hines recently wrote an exceptional post on how to effectively build an e-mail list. The post breaks down the most important aspects of list building, which includes:

  • Placing opt-in forms in high-traffic areas of the site
  • Integrating your mailing list with other platforms.
  • Offering specials to subscribers

Other email marketing resources that you might also want to check out:

Analytics – measure, analyse and improve

Understanding the data and results of your inbound marketing efforts is very important, as this gives you insights on how you can scale and how you can make your campaign more efficient.

Data simply guides your campaigns’ actions and it allows you to discover more opportunities that you might haven’t optimized your site for yet.

Several metrics that you should be taking a closer look at in Google Analytics, which can help improve your overall marketing initiatives:

  • Top content assets with high engagement rate and conversions (Content > Site Content > Landing Pages).

landing page

  • Top traffic sources – including each source’s engagement rate (avg. visit duration, % new visits and bounce rates) and conversion data.

traffic sources

  • Top conversion paths (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths) – to determine which areas of your campaign are driving more conversions to the site.

conversion paths

Once you have measured your campaign’s results and have analysed your data, you can then come up with the necessary actions to further improve your results from a conversion standpoint.

Some samples of areas that you can analyze and then optimize through Analytics’ data are:

  • Assisted conversions – which can help you know which sites are sending you traffic with high conversions, and take advantage of them (ex. contributing more content to them to get more traffic or building 2nd-tier links to linking pages sending high volume of traffic/conversions).

assisted conversions

  • Identifying most effective channels – for instance, if your SEO efforts are driving more targeted traffic and conversions (basing if your site has already increased its ranking power), you can create more landing pages that can target other industry terms and long-tail keywords.Same approach may also apply with content and social, where you can create more content assets based on your campaign’s past successful/failed assets (and on which channels they have been effective in terms of promotion).

effective channels

Determine which methods are working and are able to bring you results. Do more of them.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Off-Page SEO in 2013 and beyond

A decade ago, off-site SEO has been all about links. But it’s expected for search to progress, given that there’s a continuous evolution in web usage – which also has an effect on web marketing best practices.

These changes allowed search engines to accumulate far deeper understanding of how people make use of the web, and in turn a better ability for them to assess websites worth and deserving of higher rankings.

Off-site SEO factors have been transforming its filters to become more reliant in data that are outcomes from pure marketing efforts (off-page SEO is pure marketing).

off-page SEO

Links

Links will always be a valuable signal for search engines (and users as well), even though many are still abusing this factor to achieve better search rankings.

Google has been strict with link spam detection for the past few years (Penguin and unnatural link penalties), and will certainly continue with it, since the role of links in helping search engines understand web documents is still crucial.

It’s also helpful as a metric in indicating quality, authority and relevance, making links a strong factor in evaluating the overall importance of a website.

Some of the off-page factors that links can help with in influencing a website/webpage’s ranking power:

  • Topical relevance of linking page/domain and context of the link.
  • Authority and quality of the linking page/domain.
  • Position of the link in the page.
  • Number of unique linking root domains to the site/page.
  • Diversity of link types as well as anchor texts pointing to the site/page.
  • Links’ ability to send click-through visitors.
  • In-content links from verified authors/publishers (authorship).

You can also check out some of my older posts on how you can get more links to your site:

Social Data

Social signals” is another trust and popularity indicator that search engines can use by obtaining available data from known social media networks/websites.

User behaviors, in terms of web usage, have been more exposed in social platforms, which is why this ranking factor has been somehow more relevant in determining popular content, personalities and brands.

Although it’s not applicable to every industry, and not really a factor that Google will most likely focus on, it’s still a signal worth pursuing (diversified traffic sources is always good).

Off-page SEO factors that social signals can help in affecting search rankings:

  • Amount and quality of social shares of the page.
  • Authority of the social users/accounts sharing the content/URL.
  • Site-level social signals (total social shares/mentions the domain has).
  • Following, activity and interactions in the site’s social brand pages.

How to get more social shares:

  • Align content strategy with your social campaigns, by producing more content that will most likely be shared by your target audience.
  • Make social buttons very visible in the site’s pages (serving as a secondary call-to-action).
  • Building a strong following base and growing your network – through consistent content development, curation and interactions.
  • Reaching out and connecting with industry influencers.
  • Using paid social services directing to your shareable content (like sponsored tweets, FB stories, paid discovery on Stumbleupon, Reddit’s sponsored links, etc…).

Michael Martinez also wrote a great piece that also explains how search engines could be using social data in their search ranking algorithms.

Brand Signals

It’s obvious that Google is favoring brands more and more, as they update how they rank webpages in their search results. The answer is simple, because well-established brands are more credible and trusted by people.

“The Internet is fast becoming a cesspool of misinformation… Brands are the answer. – Eric Schmidt”

There are several factors in which search engines can gather data that relates and pertains to the strength of a brand’s presence over the web, such as:

  • Amount of brand (linked or unlinked) mentions from external content sources. Phrase-based indexing helps search engines better understand what a brand is about through co-occurrence.

co-occurrence

  • Brand mentions from authority news sites or having the story of a brand covered by a-list media sites.

brand coverage

  • Have employees listed the company/brand in Linkedin as their employers. It’s another signal that search engines can use to verify if the company/brand is real.

linkedin

  • Branded web properties. This may include your social brand pages as well as branded microniche sites under your brand. Think of Moz’s other niche sites (which they have developed and acquired in the past) like Open Site Explorer, Followerwonk and GetListed.org.
  • Branded search. This is definitely one of the most robust data that search engines can count in determining a brand’s strength and the demand for the information, products or services it provides.

branded search

How to improve your online brand presence:

  • Embrace, implement and be consistent in content marketing.
  • Use social media to push the brand out in your market. Connect and build relationships with other known entities in your industry, as these connections will help you get your brand out to your peers’ networks/followers.
  • Launching a display ad campaign can also help get your brand noticed, especially if they are aimed toward your target audience – which can also improve branded searches.
  • Organize events and other offline marketing efforts (like a t-shirt project), which are all effective in terms of branding.
  • Making sure that your product/service stands out in the market (USP).

SERP Performance

Given that Panda is now being integrated to Google’s search ranking algorithm, the performance of your site/pages’ listings in the search result pages will be more important than ever – as an off-page factor.

The data that they can retrieve through search results help them assess relevance (of the page to the search query), usability as well as the engagement rate of the page.

Some of the viable factors that search engines can use to evaluate a ranking webpage’s SERP performance are:

  • The click-through rate of the page from search results.
  • The duration of time the visitor stayed on the page coming from the search result (long-click).
  • If the site’s listings display rich snippets (for videos, authorship, structured data, in-depth, etc…).

How to improve your site’s search listings performance (for CTR and long-click):

  • Optimize meta tags (title tags and meta descriptions) for users and clicks. Make these areas more appealing and enticing to searchers.
  • Make sure that the title of the page is accurate and matches with its content – this can help improve visitor engagement and in making search-driven visitors stay longer on the site.
  • Deindex poor-content, duplicates and pages that won’t be useful to searchers.
  • Implement authorship or publisher markup.

authorship

video snippet

Relationships

Relationship is a strong indicator of trust. The people and brands that you’re associated with speak a lot about your own brand. And which is why social connectivity is a good off-page signal for search engines in determining a brand/content’s value.

social graph

Few ways that this factor may be used by search engines to identify brands with authoritative relationships:

  • Having multiple links/mentions from industry peers from their content.
  • Connectivity on various social networks.
  • Blogroll links.
  • Reciprocity of links (in-content mentions, social sharing, etc…) from the two domains/brands.

On how to build strong online relationships, you can check out some of my old posts that tackle this aspect of online marketing:

Authorship

Building a solid author portfolio doesn’t just occur within your site, as you can also improve authorship through establishing yourself as an expert author on other industry-related sites (and by also implementing the rel=”author” tag on your content contributions).

contributor to

How to prepare for and improve your AuthorRank:

  • Regularly contribute content to or become a columnist on high-domain authority publications in your industry (and implement authorship markup).
  • Grow your network and build authority on Google+.
  • Associate yourself with other reputable authors and publishers in your industry’s online space (getting your brand or works mentioned by them may have a direct impact to your AuthorRank scores in the future).

Information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. – Eric Schmidt

Reviews and Sentiments

People’s sentiments about the brand’s site/products/services are also one of the most significant data that search engines can draw to assess credibility, popularity and market value.

Google is already using sentiment analysis within their algorithm, which is why getting more voluntary and authentic user reviews of your brand will more likely affect your site’s overall ranking power.

How to get more reviews for your site, product and/or services (I’ve already shared the following three pointers on a post I’ve written few months ago):

  • Blogger outreach on a personal level – to actually get experiential reviews. Dan Cristo wrote an excellent post on how to get more reviews of your products 2 years ago, and you might want to check that one out.
  • Create an affiliate program or a referral commission system to attract more bloggers in reviewing your product or services. Offer this as a value proposition when reaching out to bloggers (give higher commission rates to authority bloggers in your industry).
  • Provide great products and services, or be exceptionally great with customer service (think Zappos). This can extremely help you get voluntary online reviews of your products/services. You can also offer freebies (promo codes, discounts, etc…) to customers who own blogs or have strong following on social networks. That might also increase the chances of getting links from them.
  • Consistently provide actionable and useful content to build a strong readership. Avid readers (especially if they’re active online) will almost always recommend your works and share positive things about your brand.

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Citations

Building citations is a practice that is more known for Local SEO – as it mainly helps in improving a site’s search rankings in a certain location.

Since citations mostly include NAP (business name, business address and phone number), it can then be a strong indicator that the business is real – given that it has the necessary details wherein people can actually find their office/stores.

How to build citations (below is a list of the top local business directories, which was originally curated by Andrew Shotland):

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How I get quick wins in SEO and Content Marketing

I’m not really used to writing shorter blog posts – and I’m also guessing that most of you already know that I always write long-form content and comprehensive tutorials related to online marketing.

So I’m going to try something new, well not that new, since I’ve written some posts in the past that are just 500+ words in length – although, there’s something that I would want to test on this one.

Anyway, there’s this one question that seems to be asked to me more and more for the past 2 years of being a consultant:

“How do I get quick wins in SEO and content marketing for me and/or for my clients”?

organic search results

My answer is quite simple, I believe that the real key to any effective and result-driven online marketing campaign (whether it’s relying on search or content marketing) is through a solid research phase.

This stage usually includes the following areas to have a sustainable content strategy for both search and social campaigns:

  • Keywords
  • Audience
  • Competitors
  • Methodology

Although, I mostly look out for two things:

  • Understanding what your target audience really needs and seeks for, and then being able to provide those needs.
  • Determining what your competitors have, and basing your methodologies on what appears to be their weaker spots.

By having insights from these 2 research processes – knowing your audience and the strengths as well as weaknesses of your competitors – it’ll be easier for you to come up with the unexpected hooks that you can use for your content.

These are the information and the ideas that you can provide that your competitors aren’t covering yet, and might somehow be needed by your target audience.

Content is an investment

Content is a brand asset that can help you scale your marketing and lead generation. Because a single content can alter how your business will perform in the future.

One blog post can drive you hundreds of leads/sales in its lifetime, so what more if you have dozens or hundreds of this type of high-performing content.

Perhaps, that’s the reason why my main approach when it comes to content marketing only revolves around 3 primary elements:

  • Comprehensive
  • Actionable
  • Evergreen

And how do I come up with a content that’s comprehensive, actionable and evergreen? Back to step 1, I try to understand my audience and I study my competitors’ existing assets.

Surefire Formulas?

With formulas, that’s where I’m not sure. But mindset, there is. Our profession requires lots of complex processes. But I love to simplify things, not just to make it easier for me, but to also make it damn easier for my team.

My principle in SEO is very simple, as you only have to optimize for two things:

seo

And same thing applies in content marketing:

content

The truth is, it’s really easy to promote (great) content when you’re sure and confident about it. And don’t forget to reach out to those who’re really interested about the subject of your content.

Because at the end of the day, search and content marketing will always be a battle of who stands out the best.

Special thanks to: Myles Vives and Benj Arriola. We were supposed to do a video about this topic earlier, but might do it another time.

Also, if you want me to write a longer and more detailed version of this post, please let me know in the comment sections. I would be happy to write one (but not sure when, as I also have 2 big posts coming out this month – off-page SEO in 2013 and beyond and a comprehensive guide to content promotion).

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

The True Value of Link Building in Post-Penguin Era

trusted links

There has been a lot of talk around the industry that the ROI in link building is diminishing. Mainly because of the constant algorithmic updates (particularly Penguin) that strongly impact this marketing platform, as well as with the shift that Google wants to take on in revolutionizing its search.

However, I’m still one of those who won’t really believe that link building will soon be over as an effective medium that can help websites/brands earn more and win over their competitions on the web.

Let’s recap several advantages of link building and why it wouldn’t likely be extinct:

  • It can drive referral traffic, especially if the links are contextual and placed on high-traffic and thematically relevant pages/content.
  • Links and brand mentions help businesses become more authoritative and visible to their target audience (link building is more efficient as a branding tool).
  • Links help sites (and web documents) in getting found and discovered, not just by search crawlers, but also by users.
  • Links can also increase a website’s conversions.
  • Link building still directly impacts a site’s ability to rank on search results.

I’ve handled sites that heavily relied on SEO/link building alone for the past few months – without the help of content marketing, social media and other traffic/lead generating channels – but were still able to produce tremendous results (bringing us closer to the business’ goals) in a short period of time.

organic search results

traffic overview

Although we all know that it’s always best to have a diversified source of traffic, it’s given that it’s not the way how it works on other niches.

Perhaps that’s why I strongly believe in link building as a very significant process in this age of online marketing. It can still yield results – overwhelming results.

My thoughts on Penguin and the future of link building

What I really love about SEO, as a profession and an industry, is that it continues to challenge its practitioners. While search constantly enhances and evolves itself, it also tests and changes/improves our own views and principles along the process.

Let’s start digging in through few of my observations based on our team’s available data. Although, I’m sure that I’ll be updating many of the things that I’ll be mentioning in this post in the coming weeks.

Possible Google Penguin filters

Matt Cutts mentioned that the new version of Penguin – Penguin 2.0 – goes deeper on to the site’s inner pages (the links pointing to them), as the first Penguin mainly targeted homepages.

Some practitioners argue that this isn’t true, although our data somehow suggests that it is (which will be shared on the latter part of this post).

Below are the factors which I think Google Penguin 2.0 uses in determining a site’s degree of penalization – based on my initial assessment – listed in particular order (according to each factor’s weight).

  • The quality of the link source. It’s easier for them to identify spammy websites or link networks these days (sites with Panda-prone content, contain tons of manipulative links, and have low user-engagement rate).
  • Degree of penalty could be based on the ratio of # of bad vs. good links pointing to the site’s pages.
  • Thematic relevance of the linking domain(s).
  • Amount of links with exact match anchor text pointing to a page (over-optimization), as well as their positions in the linking pages (sitewide, footer, comment section, contextual, etc…). But these might only serve as supporting metrics for the first factor I mentioned.

Ratio of # of Bad vs. Good linking domains

I think that the degree of the penalty from Penguin 2.0 depends on the ratio of bad vs. good links pointing to a certain site, as I’ve seen a couple of the sites we’ve been handling that were mildly hit by the recent Penguin update.

For instance, the site with the stats I’ve shared above was also hit (by 27% loss in search traffic).

penguin 2.0

The site has only a few linking domains to it, since we’ve only focused on getting links from 3 high DA sites (through regular content contribution).

linking domains

Though the problem is that several spammy sites have scraped the content we’ve published on one of the sites we’ve contributed to. So basically, the ratio of good and bad domains linking to the site is around 4:13.

If Penguin has devalued the other domains linking to the site, then this may have caused the slight decrease in search traffic (as the links are no longer passing ranking value to the site).

Another case is from a huge site we’ve been working on for months now that have thousands of great links, but also have a few hundreds of bad ones, specifically from:

  • Scraped content hosted on spammy websites/content farms.
  • Negative SEO.
  • Directory links, articles and social profiles with exact match anchor texts (built by their previous SEO service provider).

links - sample 2

This was slightly affected by the recent Penguin update, with 17% decrease in organic traffic.

penguin 2.0 - 2

The loss in traffic wasn’t that massive knowing that it has thousands of good links. Although, I will still need to observe it in the next few weeks to ensure if Penguin was really the reason behind its gradual loss in traffic (penalties usually have sudden drop and not gradual decline in search traffic).

The last one is from a small blog that I’ve been helping out in the last 4 months. We’ve managed to grow its search traffic by 500% in the first 3 months, but lost 38% of its organic traffic after the Penguin update last May 22, 2013.

penguin 2.0 - 3

The main reason was I didn’t check its historical link data, and just recently found dozens of spammy links pointing to its inner pages (from link networks) – which were built by the SEO he previously hired (early last year) – as I thought that the site was launched September last year.

Here’s a sample:

sample spam link

This site has less than a hundred linking domains, and the ratio of good vs. bad LRDs directing to it is around 20:45.

links - sample 3

I believe that regaining its search traffic is still very doable, so as to the 2 other sites I’ve mentioned above.

In getting their search visibility back, the link development campaign should focus on three things:

  • Build more quality links from trusted and relevant domains (have high DAs) to outnumber the bad links pointing to the site and its pages.
  • Disavow links that you have no control of via Google Webmaster Tools (disavow tool).
  • Try to remove low quality links (obvious spammy links) by contacting webmasters and requesting for link removal.

Diversity is crucial, but not a requirement

To make a site’s link building really diversified, it needs people (real people) to genuinely link to it. This means you need to really get out there and do remarkable things for people to talk about your brand (this is where content, relationships and other awesome stuff come in).

Artificial link building is promotional work, and no one is saying that it’s not allowed. Don’t forget that link building is also a marketing tool that can help your site get found (by your audience and search engines).

So if you’re going to use artificial link building methods (such as guest blogging, linker outreach, forum marketing, etc…), make sure that you can get the most out of them.

Consider these techniques as mediums to get more traffic and potential linkers to your site’s content, rather than just using them to draw signals to manipulate search rankings. Become more visible in few chosen communities where people are most-likely to share or link to your works.

You don’t need hundreds or thousands of unique LRDs

Number of unique linking root domains allows you to become more competitive in terms of having more ranking power in search results – that is what it was before.

But I think many have misinterpreted this, as many have disregarded the quality of the domains that they are trying to get links from (just to make their sites have more LRDs than their competitors).

I’d still choose and recommend having repetitive link acquisitions from a few chosen strong domains (that are entirely relevant to your site) than link dropping on hundreds/thousands.

Because this approach will make your link profile look more authoritative, based on the relationship that it’s building with other high authority domains in its field (think 5 solid contextual links from SEOmoz vs. 50 links from other not-so-popular SEO blogs).

As I’ve mentioned on the first sample website I’ve shared above, it has only 3 solid link source (in which we’ve continuously contributed content to), but the results were far greater than what most would expect.

Monthly link audit is imperative

You’ll never really know if you’re already a victim of negative SEO. Remember my mistake on the third sample site I’ve shared above? I forgot to dig deeper on its historical link data, and see where it got us.

If only I knew that it has dozens of spammy links (built by its previous SEO) before last week’s Penguin update, then I could have suggested earlier (few months back) to have those links removed or disavowed.

Avail link research tools like Open Site Explorer, Cognitive SEO and/or Ahrefs to easily monitor your site’s new and old links.

Another thing to consider in your link audits is measuring the impact of your existing links, and treating them as a part of your site’s assets (particularly those that are continuously sending referred traffic and conversions – as well as linking external pages that are ranking very well in search results).

Make these incoming links more powerful, by building 2nd-tier links to them.

Relevance and Context

Links are far more powerful when they are being clicked by users. It passes more trust and ranking power, based on the usage of the link, as well as the relationship between the linking page and the destination page of the link.

It’s easier to entice people into clicking a link when they are relevant to what readers/surfers are seeking for or interested in. Several factors that can increase clicks on links:

  • Position of the link
  • Length of anchor text
  • Traffic of the linking page
  • Context and sentiments of the texts surrounding the link
  • Relevance of the content to the link’s destination page

Building more links that can attract referred traffic can definitely send out more positive signals about your site/brand, which impacts your site’s ability to rank better on search and convert more referred visitors.

AuthorRank

Being a verified author (through authorship markups) and having a strong author portfolio (for AuthorRank) is more important than ever.

trusted links

Verified authorship will amplify the strength of the links you are building and other authors are building for your site, since these citations/mentions are expected by search engines to be more credible and trustworthy – based on the level of trust that other people see in your author profile (from both social and web graph).

Image credit: The Evolution of Search by Tom Anthony

Key takeaways:

  • Start growing your author portfolio both in and out of your site.
  • Build relationships with other authors and publishers in your industry.

Anchor text – partial match, branded links and co-occurrence

I have always believed that the most important role of links (in SEO perspectives) is to mainly absorb and pass domain authority back to your site, for it to have more ranking power (making all of its indexed pages capable of ranking highly on search results).

Using descriptive anchor texts was – and is still – the best way to make search engines understand what the link’s destination page is all about.

Although many have abused this ranking factor in the past to manipulate search rankings (and up until now), Google is still able to use other methodologies to understand links – knowing that this is very important to them.

Some of the most efficient anchor text strategies that can help bring more value to your link development campaign are:

  • Using partial-match anchor texts, rather than exact-match. This approach doesn’t just make your links look natural and diversified, but it also makes your links highly descriptive for both users and search crawlers.
  • Build more branded links to your site, as this can still impact your site’s overall ranking ability, given that this type of link can pass domain authority and trust.
  • Since Google is also applying phrase based indexing in their search algorithms, utilizing co-occurrence (placing generic keywords near linked or unlinked brand mentions) to help search engines determine and understand what your brand is about.

co-occurrence

Link building is about building the right signals – to build trust.

Links are gateways to experience. And most of us know that great experience is what makes brands remarkable and it’s also the main thing that Google would really want to serve to their users.

eric schmidt

Great links begin with great content/experience. And great content/experience over the web wouldn’t be accessible to people without links. That’s why link building will still and always be significant.

Link building is valuable, because it’s a part of a bigger process. SEO, branding, content marketing and traffic/lead generation are far more effective with links!

For more advanced link building tutorials, you may check out some of my other posts:

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre

44 Creative and Innovative Link Building Experts and Their Strategies

Update: This post was originally published last Sept 3, 2011, which was entitled “26 creative and innovative link building experts and their strategies”. A lot of changes have happened in the link building scene these past several months, which made me decide to update this big list of resources. 

With the constant advancements that occur on various search engines’ algorithms, it is certain that the search and link game will be harder in the days/months/years to come compared to what it was like a decade ago.

Search users’ behaviors tend to grow and change as these developments arise and being employed by search engines, which makes the online marketing space more competitive, especially when it comes to link building.

Many say that link building is tough, well, yes, it is, seeing that the search industry is still in its youth stage and still has immense potentials of growing.

There are also a good percentage of companies all over the world that are still in the juncture of realizing the importance of building a strong web presence for their brands. If this other piece of the pie starts to get involved in the online marketing game, then that might just inundate the web with more sites hungry for links, which clearly means a birth for more spammy linking tactics or a new dawn for more innovative strategies.

Nowadays, in order to be efficient and to truly attain great results from your link building campaigns, you may have to fully require creativity in your strategies for reasons such as:

  • Search algorithms continuously change in order to keep up with their users’ needs.
  • Competition – on any industry – keeps on growing by the day.
  • Web users are getting smarter.

The rules in link building may frequently change, but its essence as an aspect of web marketing will always remain vital, whether it integrate itself to other new developments (like social signals), as it is the most uncomplicated way for search engines to determine websites’ authentic popularity and authority.

Having that said, I decided to list some of the most creative and innovative link builders in the industry that I know, including their works that somehow influenced my views as an SEO, and perhaps to serve as an inspiration in developing your own link building strategies.

Rand Fishkin1. Rand Fishkin, Founder and CEO of SEOmoz“white hat SEO evangelist and the face of modern Search”

5. Eric Ward, Link Evangelist at Adgooroo“link building wizard”
Wiep Knol6. Wiep Knol, Founder of Gila Media“creative link marketing expert from the Netherlands”

Tom Critchlow7. Tom Critchlow, Former VP of Operations at Distilled (now works for Google) – “the face of Search’s next generation”

Michael Gray
8. Michael Gray, President of Atlas Web Service and author of Wolf-howl“legendary link ninja”
Todd Malicoat9. Todd Malicoat, author of Stuntdubl“one of the pioneers of link baiting”
Garrett French10. Garrett French, Founder of Citations Lab“content-based link building expert”
Rae Hoffman-Dolan11. Rae Hoffman-Dolan, CEO and Managing Director of MFE Interactive“the link interrogator”
Ross Hudgens12. Ross Hudgens, author of Authentic Marketing“thought-leader on scalable link building”
Napoleon Suarez13. Napoleon Suarez, SEO Consultant at SEER Interactive“out-of-the-box link building specialist”
Ryan Clark14. Ryan Clark, CEO of Linkbuildr“ingenious link development strategies straight from Canada”

Melanie Nathan15. Melanie Nathan, President of CanadianSEO – “link building extraordinaire”

Hugo Guzman16. Hugo Guzman, VP at Zeta Interactive and author of Enterprise Interactive Marketing“corporate-level link building expert”
Justin Briggs17. Justin Briggs, SEO Consultant – “the link building scholar”
John Doherty18. John Doherty, Director of Distilled NY – “the fastest rising pundit on the Search sphere”
Debra Mastaler19. Debra Mastaler, author of Link Spiel“the link guru”
Dan Cristo20. Dan Cristo, Co-founder of Triberr“the serial web entrepreneur and developer”
Tad Chef21. Tadeusz Szewczyk, SEO blogger at SEOptimise and author of SEO 2.0 at Onreact“Global SEO player from Germany”
Kristi Hines22. Kristi Hines, author of Kikolani“leading media curator in the industry”
23. Jennifer Van Iderstyne, Online Marketing Director at Search Slingshot“the link building artist”
Wayne Barker24. Wayne Barker, Online Marketing Consultant at Boom Online – “the link specialist from Nottingham”
Julie Joyce25. Julie Joyce, owner of Link Fish Media“the link specialist”
26. Michael King, Director of Search at iAcquire – “advanced inbound marketing strategist”
richard baxter27. Richard Baxter, CEO at SEOGadget“the link gadget”
jon cooper28. Jon Cooper, Author of Point Blank SEO“the link building prodigy
paddy moogan29. Paddy Moogan, SEO Consultant at Distilled and Author of the Link Building Book“the link wizard”
d7ac2fd6d788d54f55f94f2650fd838d30. John-Henry Scherck, SEO Consultant at SEER Interactive – “the link mechanic”
d4f22u1a2235x2t0l73432. James Agate, Founder of Skyrocket SEO“the guest blogging genius”
de89d42d1f5abc2c1d4dd05c55a1128133. Kane Jamison, Founder of Content Harmony“the data-driven content strategist”
mypic34. Stephanie Chang, SEO Consultant at Distilled – “the link building teacher”
Back Camera35. Ed Fry, General Manager of Inbound.org“the link baiting prodigy”
cyrus shepard36. Cyrus Shepard, SEO and Content Marketing Consultant for SEOmoz – “the content astronaut”
1675b74ff21652c29edde2c7e82f0a3937. Peter Attia, SEO Consultant at Cucumber Nebula – “Any color of hat link building expert”
anthony pensabene38. Anthony Pensabene, Content and SEO Consultant at Skyrocket SEO – “one of the best writers in the industry” 
bill-slawski-1039. Bill Slawski, Author of SEO by the Sea“the link scientist”
michael martinez40. Michael Martinez, Author of SEO Theory“the link theorist”
chris dyson41. Chris Dyson, Author of Triple SEO – “the link MacGyver”
chris gilchrist42. Chris Gilchrist, MD and Founder of Hitreach“wordpress SEO expert from Dundee”
tim grice43. Tim Grice, Head of Search at Branded3“the link wizz”

Some of my Link Building Posts

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Image Credit: Justmathing