Baking SEO Into The Company Workflow & Culture

Nov 25th
posted in

There is a big difference between working on your own sites, and working on sites that belong to others.

When you work on your own sites, you can execute changes quickly, and you don't need to convince anyone else of the merits of your actions. However, within an organization, SEO requires significant buy-in on a number of levels. Failure to get that buy in can severely compromise the effectiveness of the SEO, which might - rather unfairly - see the SEO out of a job.

In this article, we'll take a look at the problems the SEO who is either in-house, or working on a clients site, faces, and a few ideas on how to deal with them.

Embedding SEO Into The Culture

In-house SEO is just as much about politics as it is about execution.

There will be various stakeholders, many of whom man not be be familiar with SEO. There will be people who will be openly hostile to someone else insisting they change the way they work.

No matter what, you're going to ruffle a few feathers.

The first step to achieving good SEO outcomes within an organizational structure is to get management buy-in.

Given that management have probably already hired you, this should be a relatively straightforward step. Management will want to see facts, figures and strategies that support the business case. Prepare presentations that demonstrate your proposed strategy, how it supports the business case, how long it will take to achieve, and what your measure of success will be.

Once these factors are agreed to, you'll have the backup you'll need to undertake the hard part.

Convincing The Minions

Various people need to buy into SEO in order for it to work.

Some companies locate their web team within IT, whilst others place them within marketing. Sometimes, the two business units share ownership of the strategy. The important thing to determine is who has the control, especially over aspects such as site structure, content production, and overall strategy.

Think of internal employees as customers. Also check out my article Overcoming Common SEO Objections.

Look to establish rapport with, and train, the various people who occupy these important roles.

1. The Manager

You must have buy-in from the person with the most control over the business unit responsible for web strategy. They will be able to provide the support and backup you'll need.

Managers tend to respond well to anything that helps them achieve departmental goals. These goals have probably been set by upper management.

Look for areas synergy exists. For example, marketing managers often have traffic goals, and similar visitor metric milestones. Show them how SEO will help meet those objectives.

This is why it is important to frame SEO in business terms, as opposed to just a technical process. Without management buy in, and aligned business goals, you're unlikely to get support for the technical changes you need to do.

2. The Designer

The designers are responsible for the look and feel of the site. They will probably also be responsible for site architecture. Architecture and design are two areas where you are likely to experience a lot of push-back.

There is good reason for this.

What is good for SEO might not be good for users or brand aesthetics. This area that needs to be carefully balanced. If the designers think the SEO is compromising the look, feel and operation of the site, then you're not going to get very far, no matter how good your intentions are.

If your designers are familiar with usability, and good designers will be, you're in luck. There are a lot of usability integration points that work for users, designers and SEOs. For example, breadcrumb navigation can be great for usability and SEO, as they allow for the propagation of keywords, and provide internal link structure. Be on the lookout for other areas that require little change and provide natural synergies.

Once you've built up trust, you may be able to get bigger concessions.

3. Writers & Content Producers

The writers provide the words. The content producers may provide video, pictures, and other media. You'll probably be dealing mostly with the writers.

Writers, especially if they have been writing professionally for a long time, can often be very set in their ways. Writers schooled in journalistic and copy writing techniques use methods that predate internet search engines, and often the internet itself.

Old habits die hard.

Once again, a way to get around this is to align their goals with yours. Show writers how much potential traffic there is out there and how keyword research can be used to suggest article topics and title ideas. Show them that by following a few SEO principles, they can get more readers reading their stuff.

Writers often have communications objectives i.e. to achieve wider reach and exposure, so there might be some obvious, natural synergies to be had.

Check out this tactic, used by Rudy De La Garza Jr at BankRate Inc to help convince writers to adopt SEO practices:

At Bankrate, Mr. De La Garza showed editorial employees that, for some articles, deciding on about 10 main keywords before writing could help increase their number of page views. Writers were already vying for bragging rights to the most popular articles. He told them: "You know what, guys? If we apply a few SEO tactics here, I can help you win the weekly battle," he says

4. The Developer

The developers are responsible for the technical aspects of the website. Developers need to be aware of the need for site response speed - they probably are already - and ensuring the site is crawlable. This job has been made somewhat easier, of late, given the introduction of Google Site Maps.

There might be various coding practices that can be changed in order to enhance SEO. For example, try replacing JavaScript behaviors, particularly for menus, with CSS techniques. Are there other coding aspects that could be enhanced? It might provide an opportunity for the developer to train in new technologies.

I've yet to meet a developer who didn't want to learn new ways of coding. It all adds to their CV.

Political Concerns

In any change process, there are a lot of political battles to fight. SEO is no exception.

This is where training and evangelism comes in. The more people who understand what you do, and how and why you're doing it, the easier your job will be. There is no one way of achieving this, other than to communicate as often as possible.

Using external metrics can help. Suggest that other companies are doing this, and what you're telling them is industry best practice. Create a sense of jeopardy that if they don't do it, they'll be left behind. Show people how having knowledge of SEO adds to their skill set, and thus increases their value to the employer.

Outside consultants can be very useful here. Short-term contractors usually aren't part of the political machinations of fighting for position and internal power plays, and can often be more successful at implementing change. Because their tenure is limited, they don't tend to be seen as a threat to career paths.

Ongoing SEO Best Practices

Once you've got people onside, you need to start building procedures into the work-flow itself. Amend and rewrite guidelines to make SEO part of the day to day process.

For example, when writing articles, writers should search for existing published articles, and include them in a related articles section. Have the designers build a "Related Articles" section into the template, so it becomes a natural part of the article creation process. Developers should use technologies that allow for crawling. Designers should use SEO friendly formats and templates, where possible.

In this video, Marshall Simmonds discusses, amongst other topics, how to create an in-house search team from scratch:

The best SEO is when people aren't aware they are doing SEO.

The SEO has simply become part of the furniture.

Have your Say

Have you worked as an in-house SEO? Or worked on SEO within a large organization? What challenges were you faced with? How did you overcome them?

We'd love to hear your stories in the comments.

SEO Sales Process: Overcoming Common SEO Objections

Nov 23rd
posted in

When you're pitching for SEO business, what objections do you hear most often?

Knowing what objections to expect, and how to handle them will help you win business. Here are nine common objections made by SEO clients, and a few ideas on how to deal with them.

1. Search Engines Will Find Us/We Already Rank

Sure. Under what keyword terms? How much of the site are the spiders missing?

There is a big difference between arbitrary ranking in search engine listings, and ranking for focused keyword terms. Demonstrate to the client the value of appearing under a wide variety of targeted keyword terms, as opposed to this being a random process. It is like the difference between advertising where few people are looking, as opposed to appearing on a string of billboards in prominent locations.

You could do a side by side comparison between the client and a more established competitor using Compete.com graphs. If they already rank for valuable terms, try to get them to track the business derived from those rankings, and show them the upside potential of increasing rank.

2. We'll Have To Redesign Our Site. That Costs Money

Quite possibly.

Try to demonstrate to the client that the potential benefits outweigh the costs. One way to price organic search traffic is to use the PPC prices as a guide. It could also be argued that organic listings have a higher trust level amongst users, making the traffic potentially even more valuable.

So how much is that poor design costing them in terms of lost opportunity?

3. SEO is Expensive

A common objection, usually made because the client can't determine the amount of work required, or the the value added.

Break down the work into separate tasks, and outline how long each task is likely to take. If the client knows your rate per hour, then they will be more able to determine if the cost is fair.

For example:

  • Industry analysis - research industry sector, marketing and sales trends.
  • Competition analysis - conduct review of competitor sites
  • Keyword research - research keyword terms
  • Site optimization, including title tags, meta tags, copy and internal linking
  • Link building/directory submission/social media promotion
  • Monitoring and reporting

Another aspect of this objection has to do with the value proposition. Again, try printing out the PPC bid prices for the same keyword traffic, and show how your work effectively undercuts that price. If you can, try and get information about how much the client spends on other channels, and do a side by side comparison of the relative merits, costs and benefits.

4. Upper management Won't Support It

Perhaps you need to be talking to the decision maker ;)

Ask what upper-managements objections would be? Sometimes this objection is legitimate, but it is often used to avoid having to tell you "no, thanks". The client cites an authority, who isn't present, implying that any further negotiations with the client will prove fruitless.

5. Why Should We Change The Way We Write Just For Search Engines?

This objection is commonly used by copywriters and journalists.

Established writers often use methodologies that don't take into account SEO. One way to get around this objection is to request a trail run on a few test pages. Once you're demonstrated that writing effective copy can result in an increase in visitors and conversions, you'll have more sway when it comes to changing the rest of the site.

Also, appeal to the copywriters vanity. If more people see their work, isn't that a good thing?

Cite "This Boring Headline Is Written for Google", an article about how The New York Times changed their writing practices to accommodate SEO.

"We're all struggling and experimenting with how news is presented in the future," said Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media. "And there's nothing wrong with search engine optimization as long as it doesn't interfere with news judgment. It shouldn't, and it's up to us to make sure it doesn't. But it is a tool that is part of being effective in this medium."

6. SEO Doesn't Work. It's A Scam!

Ask the client why they feel this way. Has the client had dealings with SEOs in the past? Seen some bad press?

Have case studies on hand that demonstrate how you've solved search marketing problems in the past. Also provide recommendations from previous clients who were happy with your work.

Reframe the debate in terms of problems and solutions.

7. We Have A Strong Brand, So We Don't Need SEO

This is true, so long as people only search on the brand.

But what about those searchers who are searching for generic product/service names?

I once had this objection from a well-known childrens' clothes retailer. I ran a few search reports on generic searches, such as kids t-shirt, babywear, etc, and showed the client the traffic numbers. I then showed the client that their site wasn't appearing under any of those terms.

But her competitors were.

Why choose one or the other when you could easily have both?

8. We Like Flash. It's Cool!

Run away. Run fast..... ;)

Seriously though, such objections usually come from designers who place a lot of emphasis on site appearance, or want to play with the latest toys.

In the past, I've approached this in one of two ways. If they want to keep designing in Flash, or other technologies that make crawling and linking difficult, then suggest workarounds that don't affect the design. For example, create a print-friendly version of the site. This is the part of the site that gets crawled and seen by search engines and search visitors, while the designers can still focus on their elaborate designs. Essentially, you create a site within a site.

Show them that their competitors outrank them, in part, by using different technology. Is Flash really worth that competitive disadvantage?

From Google AdWords Blog:

Did you know that 20% of the queries Google receives each day are ones we haven’t seen in at least 90 days, if at all? With that kind of unpredictable search behavior, it's extremely difficult to create a keyword list that covers all relevant queries using only exact match."

It's even harder to capture that traffic using Flash.

BTW: Check out this example. Here is the spider's view of McDonalds.com.

9. Are SEO Services Really That Important?

Compared to.....?

It's an effort vs reward question. Again, if you can demonstrate clear commercial benefits over and above the cost, then "hell yes!". Try to focus on the clients business problems, and be prepared to demonstrate how the SEO spend will solve those problems in cost effective ways.

Those are a few common objections. I'm sure you've heard others. What is important to understand is that not all objections are legitimate. Most are stalling tactics used to delay making a decision. That decision is difficult to make because the client will expose themselves to risk.

Simply by being pre-prepared for objections, you help negate that risk, and can quickly move the client towards make a decision.

Related Reading:

Google Outsourcing Their Search Algo.....To You!

Nov 21st
posted in

Not really. But kinda.

Google have announced the release of SearchWiki, a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. Don't like a result? You can vote it down. Likewise, you can vote links up if you think they deserve a higher rank.

These changes will only appear in your Google account, and won't influence the result sets as seen by others. However, it is hard to imagine that Google won't take note of such signals, especially if they see broad patterns emerging, and then feed this data through into their algorithm development.

When asked about this point, Google sounded a little cagey:

"Dupont was noncommittal about whether the company planned to build in that feedback loop, either directly as a signal to influence search rankings or indirectly as extra data that could help the company judge the relevance of its search results. But he certainly didn't rule the idea out. We don't close any doors. We constantly evaluate signals" that are incorporated into the search results algorithm. Search is adapting to the Internet as it becomes a more participatory medium. Now you have people telling us specific things about how they'd like to see their search results."

Make of that what you will.

Is this a sign Google are looking for other signals of quality? Do too many people know about the influence of inbound linking these days? Quick, vote down Wikipedia! ;) Curiously, Wikipedia's seo page already has 4 negative votes.

Seriously though, let's try an experiment. We here at SEOBook.com love votes for link building, seo tools, and seo ;) Best review on seo for Seobook.com wins a free month of Aarons world-famous SEO training program.

SearchWiki could also be seen as another distribution channel and potential link source ie: the people who look at the SearchWiki are likely to be webmasters. Something to think about if you're targeting this group.

  • Over 100 training modules, covering topics like: keyword research, link building, site architecture, website monetization, pay per click ads, tracking results, and more.
  • An exclusive interactive community forum
  • Members only videos and tools
  • Additional bonuses - like data spreadsheets, and money saving tips
We love our customers, but more importantly

Our customers love us!

How To Keep SEO Clients

Nov 19th
posted in

In "The Art Of The SEO Proposal", we've discussed how to get SEO clients. In this post, we'll look at how to keep them.

In most businesses, a high proportion of revenue comes from repeat business. Because it can be a costly process to acquire new clients, it makes sense to spent time nurturing the clients you already have. We'll look at ways to both structure the offering to ensure on-going revenue, and the simple things you can do to maintain and build relationships.

It's mostly comes down to doing the simple things well.

Structure The SEO Service Offering To Provide Ongoing Value

We've talked previously about SEO business models.

It can often be difficult to justify ongoing billing using a typical SEO consultant model. You go in, you fix up crawling issues, you restructure the site, you change copy, and you build links. Some SEOs may bill on-going for reporting, link building and/or competitive analysis. However, a lot of the value is created up-front, which can make it difficult to build on-going, high value relationships with existing clients. In this respect, SEO is not unlike the web design model. Minor on-going adjustments aside, the job has a clear beginning and end point.

For the relationship to build, you must create more and more value for the client on an on-going basis.

Bob Massa, one of my favorite SEO commentators, has this to say:

With little more than a glance at many of the more popular SEO hang outs, I believe it is obvious even to the uninitiated, SEO is pretty much focused on traffic generation. Things like conversions, demographics, analytics and increased website revenue generation from upselling take a distant back seat. Were it not so, topics like social media manipulation for the primary purpose of link acquisition and when PR will be updated would not dominate the interactive real estate to the extent that it does.

In this guru’s opinion, too many opportunities for genuine marketing discussions get reduced to yet one more twittershitter to be dug up and stumbled upon.

Serious discussion about honest to goodness marketing often gets buried by linkbaiting headlines that offer little more than a boost to the ego of the master baiter. Why? Because generating traffic is easy. Making money, online or off, takes education, dedication, focus, and even with those assets in place, it does little more than give one the ability to be right more often than wrong.

If you create value for the client, they will keep you. If you continue to add value, you can continue to bill. That has little to do with ranking positions, links and traffic, and everything to do with growing revenue and/or brand reach.

For example, I saw one nice piece of SEO work recently where the client remarked "I don't know what you are doing but we are getting lots of large custom order requests!". The technique was little more than placing some well-chosen keyword terms on the front page, however these words were also a strong call to action for large orders. They appeared in a prominent position. Both the SEO implementation and the business requirement were seamlessly aligned.

Think about ways to grow the the clients business when you structure your service offering.

A few models include:

  • Partnering with clients for a share of on-going revenue
  • Offering integrated marketing services - monitor keyword trends, referal trends, link search keyword to desireable action, provide custom tracking and analytics services,etc.
  • Offering lead generation services
  • Brand development and protection - monitoring competitors, monitoring the search engines for negative/positive press etc
  • Locking in clients with propriety software- Some companies muddy the waters by selling intermediary SEO services that sit between the clients site and Google. Certainly one way to get on-going revenue, but vulnerable to the whims of Google, and it could be argued not in the clients long term interests compared to improving their actual site. One great way of doing this would be to lock-in clients with propriety reporting and tools, sold on a subscription basis, that build - and demonstrate - on-going value.
  • Offering on-going competitive analysis services
  • New content production & promotion
  • Drop SEO and take up PPC bid management - kidding ;)

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these models have one thing in common. They create an ongoing value proposition.

The Soft Side

Once you've got your business model sorted out, and you're in a position to build value for the client over time, you need to nurture the relationship. Business is about people, and people need to be recognized, praised, and made to feel good. How much time do you spend nurturing the relationship you have with your existing clients?

Time Management

In order to spend more time nurturing the relationship, you're probably going to need to free up existing time! Write down your tasks and make a note of how much time you spend on each task you do. Are there any low level tasks you could delegate or out-source? Virtual assistants can take a lot of the drudge tasks off your hands, which frees you up to focus on your clients.

Here are some other tools and services worth checking out:

We've got no affiliation to these services. Honest guv' :)

Analyse How You're Spending Your Time

Are you spending your time profitably? Are you adding value to the relationship? Is it better to go to another search marketing conference, or would your time be better spent going to a confernce that relates to your clients business? How much time are you spending time researching their business area?

Word Of Mouth

Your existing customer base can also be your de-facto sales force. They can provide you with recommendations and references. If they are impressed with you, they'll talk about you to others. This both increases your revenue and cuts your sales expenses. It is much easier to close word-of-mouth recommendations than any other type of sales close. What are you doing to increase the chances of this happening?

Deliver On Promises, Let Them Know Early If You Can't

One great way to increase the chances of word-of-mouth recommendations is to under promise and over deliver. In your proposals, pull back a little from what you'll actually end up delivering. Everyone loves a vendor who is seen to go the extra mile.

Once you get the job, and find you may not be able to deliver, let clients now well in advance. Chances are, you'll get time enough to make up for it, and most clients are mature enough to realise that mistakes can happen.

Keep In Touch

It's often as simple as an email, sending a card, or making a phone call. Don't make every communication a pitch. If the client only hears from you when you're trying to sell them something, it's not much of a relationship. Try to think of ways you can contact your client without being intrusive.

Stroke The Ego

Monitor the press for mentions of your client. If you find good reviews or mentions, flick your client an e-mail. Most clients will be impressed that you're taking an interest in them.

Remind Them How Great You Are

This is a tricky one to pull off without sounding like a braggard, but the client does need to understand how much value you're providing them. Build notification into your process. Tell them what you're going to do. Do it. Tell them you've done it.

Focus On The Great Clients, Cut The Rest

Everyone likes great clients. But most clients aren't great. You'll get people who don't want to pay much, who won't pay you at all, who don't value the relationship, who miss deadlines, and who are never satisfied. Here's a great article on identifying the types of clients you don't want, and what to do about them.

Not only are these clients a pain, but they reduce the time you can spend with great clients. Make a list of your clients and rank them in order of who will provide the greatest chance of regular, high value work. Consider cutting the rest. Are they really worth your time?

Free Search Marketing RFP Proposal Template

Nov 17th
posted in

In response to my post yesterday "The Art Of The SEO Proposal", we had a few comments from readers wanting to see examples of proposals. Thanks for the feedback, guys. It really helps us to cover areas you find most valuable.

I looked back through some old proposals looking for examples, and here's the one that earned me the most money:

Hi (name removed),

It was great to meet up and hear about your plans for (name removed).

As discussed, this email is to confirm the scope of the project.

I will undertake search marketing for (name removed) with the aim of generating new sales leads. The KPI will be based around increasing the volume of verifiable leads per month, and demonstrating these leads came from search engine visitors.

Contract to follow.

Kind regards,

Peter

Feel free to use it ;)

The problem with templates, and why I don't recommend relying on them, is that they aren't specific. There are no magic words that will ensure clients sign on the line. If you're pitching for thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars worth of work, then you need to do upfront research regarding the clients specific business problems, and that must flow through into your proposal.

The exception is if you're taking a "throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks" approach, in which case you just need to swap out a few details. Personally, when I receive such proposals, I bin them, and then make a mental note not to have anything to do with that company again. If they can't be bothered, then why should I?

The "proposal" above, which was just an email, was arrived at after a working lunch. The client came to me by a word of mouth reference. This particular client was the internet marketing manager for a large, international bank.

Over lunch, I asked questions about the clients business, the problems they faced, and what they hoped to achieve. I made it clear to the client before lunch that if I didn't see an opportunity to get them more business using search marketing, then I would tell them so. No hard feelings, and at least we'd have a nice lunch.

It turned out that was the right thing to say for this particular client, as he had a dim view of search marketers - he'd engaged people in the past, and it hadn't worked out - and he was visibly relived when I started to talking about solving business problems, rather than rankings, links and tags.

In this instance, the proposal fit the client. He was already sold by the time I put something in writing, he just wanted to sign-off and get on with it.

However, template guidelines can be useful, especially if you're struggling to know what to say. Proposals are a plan for solving a problem, and they outline the terms of engagement. You need to state what the problem is, explain how you're going to solve it, and explain why you're the best person to solve that problem.

One of our readers, Hugo Guzman, from zetainteractive.com provided a great example of structure he uses, which I'll reproduce here:

1) Clear bullet points on scope of work (details, details, details)

2) Emphasis on three main facets of SEO (site-side, link building, analytics). In many cases, it's our ability to demonstrate link building or analytics proficiency that wins the business.

3) Emphasis on the tie between SEO and social media

5) Emphasis on the tie between SEO and content development

6) Emphasis on our team's ability to work directly with client stakeholders (IT/Dev, marketing, PR, and even legal for some clients)

7) Emphasis on our team's ability to take overall business goals into account (not just being SEO-centric)

8) Emphasis on ROI (explaining how you will justify their monthly spend...again it's all about the details)

9) Emphasis on the idea that SEO is ongoing and not a one-time engagement

10) Emphasis on the importance of "baking" SEO into redesigns, site migrations and even the addition of a single page of content

11) Case studies and client testimonials

12) Emphasis on our efforts to be thought leaders in the space (aka "shameless plug for my blogging efforts over the years")

That's a good a structure as any, and notice how Hugo emphasizes the need for "details, details, details". There are no short-cut to specifics, and you need to understand the clients business in order to provide them. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most clients will appreciate your level of interest.

Here are a few other template ideas to get you started:

  • Clearly state the problems you will solve. Grab a sales proposal response table to help you map out and address problems. Here's a free response table template from Microsoft
  • Address the customers issues, one by one. Use the customers name frequently
  • Organize the proposal either a) exactly the way the customer has specified or b) by order of issues, from most important to the customer, to the least.
  • Try to articulate benefits, as opposed to features
  • Most customers skim proposals, so use bold headings, graphics, and break the proposal up into themes. White space is your friend.

In terms of structure, SEO proposals typically include the following:

  • Covering Letter - summarizes the main points. Briefly. If there are five other proposals sitting on the clients desk, what is going to entice the client to pick-up your one? Clue: it's about them, not you.
  • Articulate The Business Problem
  • Articulate Measures of Success/KPI
  • Outline Your Solution
  • Specify the work you will do - break it down into tasks. Don't go into cryptic detail concerning SEO minutiae. Keep it broad and general, and pitched in terms the customer will understand without resorting to a Google search.
  • Provide a time scale and budget
  • Provide case studies, recommendations, and outline of your skills and qualifications. In my experience, case studies are pure gold. Clients want to know you're solved these types of problems before, which lessens the clients risk.

There are, of course, a million ways ways to skin a cat. If people have any further suggestions and proposal examples they would like to share, please add them to the comments.

Further Reading:

The Art Of The SEO Proposal

Nov 16th
posted in

Following on from last weeks post, How To Be An SEO Service Provider, we'll now take a look at the art of the SEO proposal.

Pitching and proposal writing is a time consuming business, so ideally you want to put your efforts where they will get the most reward. Here are a few tips on how to land the best clients, and how to avoid wasting your time.

It's Not About You, It's About Them

The first rule when pitching or writing a proposal is to put yourself in your clients shoes.

What would be your concerns? What would be holding you back from handing over thousands of dollars for SEO services? You'll need to anticipate those concerns, and be able to counter them in order to win the job.

In my experience, here are the most common concerns you'll come up against:

  • Will it work?
  • Is my money better spent elsewhere?
  • How does this help me achieve my goals?
  • Am I being ripped off?
  • Will this make me look stupid?

To overcome these objections, it is a good idea to have case studies and references prepared. Use before and after scenarios which demonstrate how your skills solved a problem and added value. Here's a great one by Jill Whalen.

The killer hook is at the end:

"High rankings are great, but what do they mean to a business? We talked to Doctor Bowler from Georgetown Surgical recently, and asked him, was he getting new business from the Internet? He was getting two to four new patients a week with his old website, and he's currently getting 50 to 70 new patients a week. That's a dramatic difference: he was nearly going bankrupt and was close to shutting up shop, and now he has to hire a new surgeon".

Now, who wouldn't buy that!

Demonstrate the value of your services over and above what your service costs to provide. For example, try to show revenue increases, as Jill did. You could also show traffic increases, and value these clicks against the PPC prices for these same keyword terms.

A variety of tools, including Google Traffic Estimator, can help you estimate the value of search traffic.

References are also valuable, because clients often seek out independent verification of what you're saying. Treat every client you have as a potential future salesperson.

If you're new to the game, and don't yet have any case studies or references, then consider doing a few freebie jobs. Theses jobs are essentially a marketing spend i.e. you "spend" time, but in return you'll be able to create case studies and get the references you need.

Don't give away your services to just anyone. The bigger the names, the better. You'll be associated with success. High profile charity organizations might be a good place to start.

Neil Patel got his start by giving free SEO tips to top tech bloggers. Bloggers have a big reach and lots of link equity that can be leveraged, so helping them can work just like helping a charity.

Probably the most valuable thing you can do, in terms of landing a sale, is to make a real effort to understand the clients business. Find out who their competition is, research their market sector, and ask questions. Most business people will appreciate you going the extra mile to truly understand them, and the issues they face.

It's Not About Them, It's About You

The flip-side of the argument is "is this pitch worth your time"?

The unfortunate reality is that some clients are not clients at all. They might be competitors trying to find out your pricing structures and strategic approach. They might be tire-kickers trying to scope the market. They could be bottom feeders who want the earth, yet are only willing to pay a few hundred dollars.

You need to quickly identify these people, for the sake of both your business, and your sanity. Make sure you're only giving away detailed strategy and pricing information if you're close to the sale. To exclude bottom feeders, mention a minimum starting price early on.

In my post "How To Be An SEO Service Provider", I question if it's a good idea to use the SEO client model at all:

Here is why I think some of you might be selling yourself short if you sell your hard won skills to clients.

If you can return real value to clients i.e. not just ranking and traffic, but real tangible, value - then why aren't you keeping all that value for yourself? Why not compete with them instead? How about partnering with people so you get to keep an on-going share of their business? If you can position sites in lucrative keyword areas, that is a very valuable skill. Can clients even afford to pay what you're really worth? If you're really good at SEO, do you really need clients? "

Unlike PPC, SEO is a strategy that requires significant client buy-in in order to work well. The reality is that the bigger the client, the less likely you are going to get your way until you've proven your worth. It's a catch 22 situation.

Test the clients expectations early and be upfront about what it's going to take. For example, who has control over the website? i.e. are you talking to the right person? How much are you going to be able to alter the website? Why do they deserve to be number one? What are they prepared to do to get there?

It's About You And The Client

The happy medium is to land a client you can work with for mutual benefit.

When I was doing SEO for clients, I wrote up an ideal client profile. If the prospective client fell outside this profile, I wouldn't take the proposal any further.

For me, the ideal SEO client:

  • Has reasonable expectations
  • Runs a profitable business
  • Does not compete in saturated markets
  • Is already ranking, but not near as well as they should
  • Has some knowledge about SEO already
  • Is a known brand

There are exceptions, of course, but clients who fit this profile were a lot easier to deal with, and a lot more profitable than the alternative.

One area I found that really makes a difference is how much the client knows about SEO. If a client has the wrong idea about SEO, then you're going to be spending a lot of your time educating both them and their design teams. This can be a long, costly unproductive process.

One way to get around this is to start with PPC.

PPC is low impact. You can use PPC to demonstrate to the client that the traffic is there, and that s/he is missing out on it. If the PPC spend is high, you can then demonstrate how you can create cost efficiencies by getting that traffic at a lower cost, using SEO. It's a good way to educate clients by showing, rather than telling.

Align Metrics With Business Goals

A lot of SEOs don't do this, and I suspect it's the prime reason the industry has earned a bad reputation.

For example, a lot of SEO is sold on the basis that the client will get an increase in rankings.

So what?

An increase in ranking is meaningless unless it translates to a desired action. Some clients will be fooled by such metrics for a while, but they are unlikely to remain so.

Eventually, they will look at their marketing spend, then look at their traffic numbers. If those referrals from search engines aren't heading up, then you're unlikely to get on-going work. If you're not getting on-going work, then you'll spend a lot of your time on the expensive sales process as you churn and burn your way through clients. Not that this isn't a valid business model, but it can be a difficult way to go about things.

Likewise, traffic can be a poor metric.

It works for a while, but unless the client is solely preoccupied with traffic numbers i.e. sites that sell advertising based on page view numbers tend to focus a lot on pure traffic volume, then you're unlikely to get long term business. The traffic needs to turn into a relationship, a sale, or an inquiry. Marketing spend, in all businesses, needs to be justified in terms of the bottom line. Everything, eventually, comes back to revenue.

If you can help the client increase revenue, then you'll make yourself indispensable. Show how SEO fits into their business objectives, which is why making an effort to understand their business is so important. At that point, you can start to reorient their web strategy around SEO.

Not only does this give you more sway, but it increases the chances of future work. For example, you could turn a brochure-web strategy into a publication strategy, which then opens up more content writing opportunities. The client is not going to be able to change a thing until they talk to you first.

If you're in it for the long term, then that's where you want to be.

Further Reading

How To Be An SEO Service Provider

Nov 13th
posted in

When we asked for questions from our readers on topics they'd like to see covered, we received a few requests on how to set up an SEO agency and position the service.

Here's my take on it:

Don't do it!

OK, I'm being facetious :) But before you run out and sell your SEO skills, let's take a look at the issues, ways to get around them, and how to position your service so you get the greatest reward for your efforts.

I'll also explain why selling your SEO services might be selling yourself short.

SEO As A Career

The news is good. According to SEMPO, pay scales for SEOs are looking healthy:

"Of those respondents with up to one year's experience, 60% reported annual salaries in the $30,000 to $50,000 range. Compensation tracks strongly with experience. At the next level, two to three years experience, almost 34% reported salaries in the $50,000 to $80,000 range. At the more seasoned end of the spectrum, of those professionals with nine or more years experience, just under 40% are earning between $90,000 and $140,000 annually."

However, let's take a closer look at those numbers:

" More than 33% of the survey respondents said they managed both pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and organic search marketing efforts. Another 35% said they worked primarily in PPC; some 20% worked primarily in organic search"

Most activity in the search marketing space is not SEO. It is PPC.

The reason for this is because SEO is a long term strategy, yet a lot of marketing spend is dictated by short budget cycles. In order to land work, you must be able to demonstrate value reasonably quickly. PPC provides a way to do this. Once businesses are sold on search as a channel, then they'll consider planning for the longer term search strategies, such as SEO.

The exception is when the client is already sold on the value of SEO. This type of client, who doesn't have an existing provider, or hasn't already moved the function in house, might be hard to find.

There is no harm learning both. PPC can teach you a lot a lot about SEO - mainly in terms of keyword research - and it increases your options.

Is Running A Business Really What You Want To Do?

There is a big difference between knowing how to do SEO and selling a service to clients.

For starters, there is the level of competition. Try searching for seo providers. As you can see, the world isn't short of SEO providers! And a lot of them are competing on price.

In an industry with such a low barrier to entry, how will you stand out from the rest? You'll need to give prospective clients a good reason why your service is better than the others on offer. How do you intend to match or better the credentials of established operators? How can you differentiate your service?

Secondly, how do you propose to sell your services?

The sales cycle is a significant cost, both in terms of time and resources. You can put a lot of effort into writing proposals, attending conferences, pitching presentations, and networking. None of this is guaranteed to pay off. And if you do land the work, how much time will you have to both do the SEO work and put in the sales effort required to land the next client? Can you scale up and take on qualified people quickly if that happens?

Thirdly, do you have sufficient cash reserves to live on while you're waiting for your first client to pay up? Cash flow can kill a small business, even those businesses which have a a lot of prospective work in the pipeline. The bills wait for no man.

You get my drift. There are many other considerations before deciding to run your own business, but the takeaway point in terms of SEO is this: determine what you like doing best.

If you like doing just SEO work, consider joining an established agency. They will take care of all the other details. If you want to build your own business empire, doing so mostly involves management, sales and administration. And, if you still have some time left over, some SEO.

Pay Models

How will you be remunerated for your efforts?

Most commonly, SEOs bill by the hour, or by the job. They set performance metrics, such as rankings and/or traffic numbers, and the job is completed when those metrics are achieved. The SEO might be able to get ongoing work in the form of reporting, or by extending the scope of the SEO project. The upside is that such a deal is simple. The downside is this needs to be sold over and over again. When you run out of hours to bill, you've hit the ceiling on your earnings potential, unless you raise your rates, or take on new people.

If you are confident of your skills, and can provide real value to a company - and that means boosting their sales and being able to prove it was you who made that happen - then consider partnership deals.

For example, one high profile SEO I know operates exclusively this way. He doesn't sell his services by the hour, he looks for businesses he can partner with, he boosts their earnings by implementing a robust, long term SEO campaign, then takes a share of their profit. This provides a healthy on-going revenue stream, without having to sell the service over and over again.

This type of deal requires a great deal of trust and transparency, but it is worth doing if you are sure you can deliver value, and can find a solid, reliable partner.

Some SEOs work on a Pay On Performance basis. This is a risky strategy, unless you are certain you can deliver the desired results. All the risk lies with you, and, really, you'd need to charge in such a way that accommodates this risk. Unfortunately, the type of clients who ask for pay-on-performance SEO deals are unlikely to be generous payers.

The Future

While search engines deliver value, businesses will pay to be seen on them.

SEO sits awkwardly amongst other marketing channels. The search engines will always try to make PPC attractive, because that's how the search engines make their money.

At the same time, they'll try to negate the value proposition of SEO, because SEO competes with PPC. SEOs are only useful to search engines in that they help spread the word about search engines, and they help sites get crawled. But don't think the search engines are going to do you, or your business model, any favors.

This situation doesn't make the SEOs job impossible, but I'm sure many people would agree that offering SEO as a service is a lot harder than it once was. A few years ago, all you had to do was add a few keywords terms to the copy and titles, point a few links at a site, wait one month, run a ranking report, and voila! You're an SEO provider.

Not any more.

SEO has become a much more holistic strategy. It requires a greater level of buy in from clients, designers, programmers, and all the other people who's toes you might tread on.

But there is plenty of life in the game yet. A lot of SEOs do great business, as can be seen from the huge popularity of the conference circuit. A lot of marketing spend is moving from other channels into search. By selling your services to others, you not only have an occupation, you gain insight into how other businesses work, which is a valuable education in itself.

I'll be going into greater detail on the workings of SEO consultancy in the coming months.

Don't do it :)

Here is why I think some of you might be selling yourself short if you sell your hard won skills to clients.

If you can return real value to clients i.e. not just ranking and traffic, but real tangible, value - then why aren't you keeping all that value for yourself? Why not compete with them instead? How about partnering with people so you get to keep an on-going share of their business? If you can position sites in lucrative keyword areas, that is a very valuable skill. Can clients even afford to pay what you're really worth?

If you're really good at SEO, do you really need clients? ;)

Further Reading:

Is Social Media Marketing A Waste Of Time?

Nov 12th

Social media is the next big thing! No, it's the big thing! It is here, now, and it is big! Let's face it, if you're not aboard the cluetrain to social media marketing city, you're sitting on that station alone!

A pity, then, that social media traffic is so often worthless.

Worthless?

Let's look at the market signals. Why is it that you pay dollars per click on Google Adwords for financial keywords, yet the same keywords on social networks are priced at five cents?

This suggests to me one of two things. Either the social networks are seriously underestimating the value of their own traffic, or most of the people on social networks aren't interested in commercial messages. If they were, then the bid values would closely match those of Google Adwords.

I think the latter is the most likely scenario. Social media traffic isn't priced higher, because it isn't translating into revenue for the advertisers. This isn't happening because the intent of the users when engaged with social media is not conducive to selling stuff.

Of course, social media traffic isn't all bad. We'll look at some ways you can benefit from it. But firstly, let's compare and contrast some aspects of social media marketing and search marketing, in order to help clarify the value proposition.

1. Traffic Is Not An Asset, Traffic Is A Cost

Traffic only becomes an asset when it translates into something else. When it becomes a bookmark, a sign-up, a link, or helps establish a genuine relationship. It must also result in an increase in revenue. If it doesn't, then traffic remains an expense.

What is the value of 10,000 Diggers hitting your site to look at, say, a picture of a monkey riding a bicycle? Zero. The trouble is that a lot of marketers are watching the web scorecard - that spike in the visitor stats that shows the number of visits - and using that as a marketing metric. "Hey, I'm popular!".

Sure, with 10,000 teenagers amused by a picture of a monkey riding a bicycle. But how is that helping boost revenue?

There isn't a lot of meaning to such a relationship. It is low value.

"This is a truth of the Internet: When traffic comes to your site without focused intent, it bounces. 75% of all unfocused visitors leave within three seconds.Any site, anywhere, anytime. 75% bounce rate within three seconds. By unfocused, I mean people who visit via Digg or Stumbleupon or even a typical Google search....."I'm just looking," is no fun for most retailers. Yet they continue to pay high rent for high-traffic locations, and invest time and money in window displays. Very few retailers lament all the traffic that walks by the front door without ever walking in. A long time ago, they realized that the shoppers with focused intent are far more valuable. Smart retailers work hard to get focused people to walk in the door and to keep the riff raff walking on down the sidewalk.".

2. Uncontrolled Message

It is difficult to control the message. Released into the wild of social networks, the message can just as easily result in negative effects as positive ones.

Check out this sad experience of being dugg, from Kim at Cre8Pc:

"Since I logged off last night around midnight, 12 hours later, over 23,000 people have been to this blog. The reason is that someone dugg about the post I wrote, where I shared a resource I found useful. That post was "dugg" and the incoming traffic this blog is receiving is to that specific blog post I wrote....Diggers complained about everything from the site design of the site I wrote about, to how stupid I was to write about it at all.....Which part of this Digg activity am I supposed to be happy about, now that something I wrote has officially been slaughtered there?"

Kim wasn't trying to get on Digg as part of a marketing strategy, but it shows how unpredictable the "benefits" of social media exposure can be.

Perhaps this might explain why Digg has been left at the altar a few times? It suggests to me that it might be difficult to extract real commercial value from such environments. Part of the problem is structural. Digg is "free" and "open" and "anonymous", which leads to a tragedy of the commons.

At the risk of blowing our own horn, part of the reason our SEO community is valuable is because people have to pay for it. People have provided a signal of interest lacking on most broad social networks. There are no questions from a member named MakeEasyMoneyOnlineTodayRightNow asking how to get his adsense earnings up to $1 a day. The price of admission helps protect the community from the tragedy of the commons.

3. Branding Is Often An Excuse For Failed Marketing Campaigns

"It's a brand spend!". Marketers say that a lot.

What they often mean is "we can find no no measurable return".

Return on brand spend is very difficult to measure, and even more difficult to isolate in a channel such as online social media marketing. Did visitors remember our brand? Did it affect their future buying decisions? Was the brand association positive or negative?

Who knows?

If you're thinking of engaging a social media marketer, and they use brand building as a metric, ask them to explain how they will demonstrate an increased, favorable level of brand awareness. If they mention traffic numbers, ask them how that squares with my first point "Traffic Is Not An Asset, It Is A Cost".

To my mind, any commercial endeavor must ultimately come back to revenue.

4. Level Of Interaction

What are people doing on social networks?

On the likes of Facebook, they are engaged in social activities. They are catching up with their friends. They are playing games. Marketing messages in this context are about as welcome as an Amway salesperson at a bachelor party.

Consider the context of the message. Search marketing works well because the searcher has already signaled their intent, and that intent may well be commercial. It's like walking into a shop, and asking to buy a watch. The relationship and interaction is direct and obvious. The context of social media is more like a cocktail party. People are there to socialize, not enter into commercial interactions. They may do so, but the relationship is fuzzy and indirect.

To overcome this obstacle, look for social networks, or network groups, where the users demonstrate clear, commercial intent. Alternatively, have a clear idea of how you're going to progress "fuzzy indirect" visitors to desired action.

5. Time

Social media marketing is time consuming.

Building your social networks. Responding to "friends". Is there are measurable return for the time spent? What is the opportunity cost of that time?

For example, compare the time you need to get a commercial message on the front page of Digg, with getting a commercial message on the front page of Google. With Adwords, I can do it in seconds.

With Digg, I'd be unlikely to get a marketing message to the top, unless I'd previously developed relationships with all the right people and/or gamed the system, which, in itself, takes a lot of time. Even then, the marketing message, unless heavily disguised, will likely be despised by a community rabidly opposed to any message with an obvious commercial imperative.

Is this time well spent on either channel? Once again, a cost/benefit analysis, where the benefits are clear and measurable, will provide the answer.

6. Rampant Stupidity & Useless Distractions

I guess no-one ever went broke underestimating human stupidity, but one really has to question the marketing value of these types of approaches:

"The Coca-Cola Company will feature its Sprite brand on a new Facebook Page and will invite users to add an application to their account called "Sprite Sips." People will be able to create, configure and interact with an animated Sprite Sips character. For consumers in the United States, the experience can be enhanced by entering a PIN code found under the cap of every 20 oz. bottle of Sprite to unlock special features and accessories. The Sprite Sips character provides a means for interacting with friends on Facebook"

Facebook, which distinguished itself by being the anti-MySpace, is now determined to out-MySpace MySpace. It's a nifty system: First you get your users to entrust their personal data to you, and then you not only sell that data to advertisers but you get the users to be the vector for the ads. And what do the users get in return? An animated Sprite Sips character to interact with.

Are people going to then talk about Sprite in a way that would increase the sales of Sprite? Really?

I can barely imagine this would work for a teen audience. Such an approach has no chance with an adult audience. Keep in mind that most people who are heavily active on generalist social network sites are likely to fit in the 15-25 year old range, although there is evidence to suggest this age range might be changing. Look at it this way - how many stories about hip-replacements ever make it top the top of Reddit?

There are a lot of messages that just aren't going to work on social media. Wrong time, wrong place.

"Media buyers — the agency people who book campaigns — report that the college social network is a truly terrible target. They're mainly students, with low disposable income, of course; but, beyond that, the users appear to be too busy leaving messages for each other to show much interest in advertising. Facebook's members appear indifferent even to movie advertising aimed at their demographic. Clickthrough rates, the percentage of time users click on an ad, average 0.04% — just 400 clicks in every 1m views — according to one report seen by Valleywag."

7. Difficult To Scale

It is easy to scale up a television campaign. Buy more airtime. It is easy to scale up an Adwords campaign. Increase the number of keyword terms and/or bids. How do you scale up a social media campaign? You can't re-create viral. Viral is hit and miss. All word of mouth is hit and miss. How many people can you cost-effectively follow on Twitter?

Social media tends to pay dividends in the long-term. Social media, generally speaking, is hard to influence, but by understanding your field well and creating relationships in your niche, you can learn to create the types of content that influencers will pick up on. Like the mavens in The Tipping Point, they will spread your message for you.

Forging such meaningful relationships won't happen overnight.

Where Social Media Pays Off

Ok, I admit it. This post has been a bit of a rant :)

It's not all bad news.

Whilst not a replacement for a marketing strategy, social media can be a viable component of a wider marketing strategy. It can be used to generate buzz. It can be used to attract links. One well placed article can achieve both these ends. If that buzz, and those links, can then be translated into a valuable relationship, and perhaps better Google rankings for commercial keywords, then the social media approach may well pay dividends.

In order to do this, social media must be back-ended with content geared towards establishing a valuable relationship, rather than one-off visits.

Marketing exists for one purpose: to sell stuff. If it doesn't do that, then it isn't marketing.

The key to evaluating social media marketing, like with with all media spends, lies in tracking and cost/benefit analysis. If traffic provides you with a measurable return on investment, then the marketing spend is justified. The only traffic worth anything is that which ultimately results in revenue producing interaction.

The problem I find with social media traffic is that so little of it ever does.

Your mileage may vary.

Outbound Linking For Fun And Profit

Nov 6th
posted in

Linking out is a valuable marketing strategy on a number of levels.

It increases the utility of your site. People will see you as being helpful. People will see you as non-partisan i.e. not always favoring your own stuff. Webmasters may see your inbound link in their logs and follow them back to you. Links are, at the most fundamental level, a connection between people.

If you've read something about the HITS algorithm (.pdf), you may have noticed that HITS looks for, and evaluates, both authority and hub pages. i.e. pages that contain multiple links out to authority pages. HITS stands for "hypertext induced topic selection", and, like PageRank, is concerned with link graph analysis.

HITS uses two values for each page, the authority value and the hub value.

"Hubs and authorities exhibit what could be called a mutually reinforcing relationship: a good hub is a page that points to many good authorities; a good authority is a page that is pointed to by many good hubs...An authority value is computed as the sum of the scaled hub values that point to that page. A hub value is the sum of the scaled authority values of the pages it points to. Relevance of the linked pages is also considered in some implementations."

How much is HITS being used? Mike Grehan, a noted world authority on search marketing, and girly drinker of Merlot (Hi Mike! - hows NY?), had this to say after interviewing Daniel Dulitz from Google:

Simply for this reason (and these are purely my own thoughts and opinions): I believe that PageRank has always been flawed. I believe that Kleinberg's HITS algorithm (and the variations on it), being closer to subject specific, provides more relevant results. A few years ago when Teoma was launched, there were lots of comparisons made about Jon Kleinberg's HITS algorithm. What many people didn't realise was, Kleinberg's algorithm had suffered its own problems: Namely "topic drift" and "run time analysis" delays. Monica Henzinger, now head of research at Google, played a major role in developing solutions to the "topic drift" problem (curiously enough by introducing a little element of PageRank in the recipe). But the "run time analysis" problem remained. In simple terms, the results from the HITS algorithm were more relevant, but they took an eternity (in web search expectation time) to compute.

Has Google rolled hub analysis into Google? Who knows. Whilst it is generally agreed that linking out currently doesn't have direct ranking advantages, linking out provides a number of marketing benefits that can, in turn, lead to higher rankings.

Some people fear that by linking out, there is less PageRank available to spread amongst your own internal pages. Whilst this may be the case, link hoarding is unlikely to win you many friends. Unless you're running an established brand, or you buy all your links, you're going to need friends to link to you in the first place.

Let's look at ten linking out marketing strategies.

1. Hey, I'm Here!

By linking out to a site, you you announce your presence to the owner of that site. Webmasters often follow back links to see who is linking to them. Simple enough, right.

Take it a step further.

When you link out, give the person a good reason to link back to you. Think about ways to add value to their site when they link sites to yours. This could be in the form of a great review, or praise, or a quote.

2. Become A Hub

Google is the ultimate hub.

Google has made a fortune by sending people away from Google. It's counter intuitive, but it works because if you provide sufficient utility, people will bookmark you and keep coming back.

No one person has all the answers. If you provide people with answers, even if those answers aren't on your site, people will still see that you provide value. Time spent on your site may actually increase as people bounce back and forth to find more information.

You may also be perceived as an authority, in a wider sense, even if you lack the content, simply by helping people find the answers they seek.

Consistency matters. Blogs that create new posts regularly will more likely be considered hubs, at very least by their readers, whilst dead blogs - not so much.

3. The Contrarian

Is everyone in you niche saying the same thing? Try going against the grain. Stand out.

"SEO sucks! It's useless! It does not work, and everyone who practicies it is clearly an idiot!".

Contrarian, right. At very least, you should create some lively debate!

Being contraian works because, by definition, it stands out. If you link out to individuals whilst being contrarian, you invite them to counter your arguments. Often, they'll do so by commenting and linking back. Google doesn't care if a link is negative or positive. A link is a link.

4. Praise Be

People love being praised.

It's one of those simple human connections. It also invokes a feeling of reciprocation.

Do so using links.

5. Give Forward

Try to give forward well in advance of when/if you need to ask a favor, otherwise reciprocation becomes a straight swap, and may be evaluated purely in terms of relative advantage.

Build up the link karma. One step at a time.

6. Ego

People look for their names. They ego search.

They also may see their names in links if they are evaluating keywords in the link text pointing to their site. Who wouldn't be curious to see that not only is their name being mentioned, but that name is also mentioned in the link?

7. Flame

Nothing sells like controversy, especially when it becomes personal, so it can be worthwhile, in terms of link development, to flame people. Be very careful, though. You risk damaging your reputation and credibility, and you'll certainly burn bridges.

Best to only flame people who truly deserve it :)

8. Deep Research

By linking to deep, academic research, you are more likely to be perceived as an authority by association.

Always be on the lookout for obscure academic research. This type of content isn't often marketed, as commercialization was not a primary consideration. Also, this research might not show up at all, because it exists in the deep web, beyond the reach of spiders. Not only do you increase utility to your visitors, and become a valuable hub, you may also be seen in search results for queries concerning that unreachable document.

Combining multiple deep citations, and/or formatting the information for easier consumption, can help make people want to cite you.

For example, "Hey I saw your great post about x and I made this image to help me better understand the concepts...do you think this is ok?"

9 Non-Typical

If you graphed the web, the link graph does not look like a group of planets, floating isolated in space. It looks like a blur of interlinked sites. Typically, a site will have a number of links pointing to it, and a number of links pointing out.

Sites that don't link out appear "exceptional" on these graphs, and probably not in a good sense. Ideally, you want to be seen as both and authority and a hub, with lots of links flowing in both directions.

10. Temporarily Extend Your Site

Linking out allows you to temporarily extend your site. You could start off with, say, a directory of resources, then look to house similar but better content on your own site later on. This way, you provide utility and start building up karma immediately, with very little effort involved.

The Open Source movement works well because it is easy for people to contribute to - so many people do! Likewise, if you do not link out, you may not become insular and disconnected. You may miss opportunities to leverage off, connect with, and build upon, the work of others.

Not linking out goes against the nature of the web, and ultimately becomes self-defeating.

Further Reading:

A Spring Clean For SEO, Even Though It's Winter

Nov 5th
posted in

An SEO strategy is an organic process.

Your SEO campaign should change focus as your popularity grows. The SEO approach for an established site can be quite different to that of a new site, mainly because, with an established site, you can leverage the power of your inbound linking.

Google favors the already "rich". The Google algorithm reinforces the establishment. If your site has become "the establishment", you may only need to work with Google, rather than against them, and high rankings should be yours with little comparative effort.

So, how often do you revise your SEO strategy? How often do you tweak and review old content? Has your SEO strategy become a little broken over the years? Try to make an audit part of your SEO process.

A spring clean for SEO :)

Here are a few ideas on what aspects to review in an SEO audit.

1. Aggressive / Non Aggressive

Are there areas on your site where you pushed the boundaries? Did this pay off? Does it still pay off? Have you used SEO strategy that worked well in the past, but the algorithms have since changed? As a site becomes more established, aggressive strategy becomes less necessary. It can also cause credibility problems.

What do I mean by aggressive?

Let's consider SEO copywriting. Sometimes, people go overboard with their copy. They cram their copy with keywords, which can often result in a page which reads poorly. The webmaster was trying to achieve high keyword density scores, and took it a little too far. In light of the weight now given to inbound links in the algorithms, this is pretty much a redundant tactic.

Do you know how much thought we give to on-page keywords in the copy at SEOBook.com?

Very little.

SEOBook.com ranks highly, for thousands of competitive keywords, because of the number and quality of the inbound links. We write on topics that we think will interest our readers. Long term credibility outweighs any limited benefit we'd get from aggressive on-page SEO tactics.

Weigh the need for aggressive tactics vs the benefit.

2. Untrustworthy Design & Format

When someone arrives at your page from a search, does your page look credible? Does it answer the search query? Does it convince people to take a desired action?

Check your pages for the basics. Check grammar, spelling and make sure the call to action is clear.

Is it time for a fresh design?

3. Re-balance Your Linking

Where are all your links coming from? Are they all reciprocal? Are they all coming from a narrow range of sites?

Look to diversify your linking patterns. Are most of the links pointing to your home page? You should have external deep links pointing to internal pages, too.

Stuntdbl has a great post on link balancing:

Examples of Link Equation Balancing:

(or If your site has….You should:)

* 1000 IBL’s from 500 unique IP’s…
…consider buying a run of site text link with your targeted text
* 70% reciprocal link…
…only get one-way links and slowly dispose of your reciprocal links
* 10k IBL’s from 10 unique IP’s…
…get many more one-off links
* 90% deeplinks to the homepage…
…compartmentalize your site and get more deep links
* 80% identical anchor text…
…use synonymous terms and switch your anchor text
"

4. Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can cause you problems, because the Google algorithm disqualifies same or similar content, in order to provide a diverse set of results.

Google provides a useful checklist for reviewing and eliminating duplicate content.

5. Forming & Maintaining Alliances

Is part of your SEO strategy to form alliances? Alliances are important because they extend your marketing reach, and provide you with links. Hook up with suppliers, vendors, partners, the local chamber of commerce, etc. Networking, quite naturally, results in links.

How often are you forming new alliances? Have you neglected any old alliances?

6. You Wrote Something Remarkable, But No One Noticed

If you've got remarkable content, you deserve links and attention. But what if you've been over-looked?

This is a perennial problem, and it is difficult to solve. People are short of time, and there is a lot of content fighting for attention.

One way is to go where the action is. Part of your SEO strategy should be involving yourself in the community, and if that means posting on other peoples sites, particularly the big community sites in your niche, then that's what you do.

Provide genuine value to those sites. Rewrite your article, put a fresh spin on it, and place it on those sites, if possible. So long as you get people's attention, and they follow the links back to you, then all is well.

Sure, you lose a level of control. But the alternative is to remain invisible.

7. Adwords Experiments

Are your title tags and descriptions all they could be? Are they optimized for maximum visitor response? How would you know?

One was is to run an Adwords test. Take the title and description from your high ranking SEO pages, and run an Adwords campaign using slight variations. This way, you can explore more enticing title and description tags, without compromising your rankings. Consider changing you title and descriptions, or write new pages, if the Adwords copy provides equivilent or better results.

8. Balance Content Writing And Link Building

A successful SEO campaign needs both. You need to weigh your time between the two, depending on where you get the best results. Linking is always worthwhile, but if there's not much on your site worth linking to, then you've got a problem.

Have you noticed a pattern of linking? For example, when you produce new articles, certain sites have a habit of linking to you? Look to monitor, cultivate and nurture those relationships.

What topics have typically earned you the most links? Do you need to adjust your focus?

These tools should help:

Link Analysis Tool, BlogStormUK

This tool requires you to install it and set up a MySQL database, but lets you:

  • Uses Yahoo Site Explorer to find all pages on a site
  • Pulls in link data for every page on the site & orders results by pages with the most links
  • Allows you to drill down 2 levels deep into the link data for pages linking to the target site
  • Accepts Google sitemaps imports
  • Accepts single URL imports
  • Lets you check the rankings for any page on any search engine

Also try this one: Majestic SEO/Anchor Index Search

Anchor Index is a very big (350 bln+ unique) web based database of urls from all over the web with identified backlinks, anchor text and some flags from pages (52 bln) that were crawled, analysed, indexed and finally merged into the index that can be queried. Search for a site, and it will give you backlink counts on a per URL basis - free of charge! If you want deeper data they sell per site reports on a per credit basis...giving you the anchor text of 10,000's of backlinks, whereas most other tools limit you to the top 1,000 links.

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