Thomas J. Armitage

Digital Marketing Consultant | Utica, NY

Tag: linking

linking
The Blunt and Brutal Honest Truth About SEO

The Blunt and Brutal Honest Truth About SEO

Search Engine Optimization

There is no other marketing effort more complex or changing at a faster rate than search engine optimization (SEO). It takes a great deal of time to just keep up with the trends. Something you learned six months ago can be outdated today. And it’s unique in that you no longer really perform SEO on its own – it’s grown to live in unison with all other digital marketing practices. I’ve only been [directly] involved in SEO for a few years, but boy has there been a lot of changes in that time related to best practices and effective tactis. So I wanted to clear up a few things and also highlight what my biggest takeaways have been since my first encounter with SEO.

SEO Is Not Dead

Young digital marketers are usually passionate advocates for SEO. But old-school thinkers are the first to wave the white flag.

How many times have you been to Google today? It’s 8 am at the time of this writing and I’ve already logged about 10 searches. Guaranteed, by the end of the day, I’ll be looking at close to 100 between desktop and mobile. Not to mention all the other ways I’ve navigated around the internet today.

We rely so heavily on search engines, and the results they feature, that I don’t know what we would do without them. The top results [usually] serve our needs. And that’s because the algorithms have been refined to feature the best and most accurate answers. So becoming one of those top answers is naturally an important goal for any business, since it will lead to high levels of high quality traffic.

Plus, SEO today is much more than just organic visitors. Consider searches from retail sites like Amazon, referral traffic, direct traffic, conversions outside of your website like on local listing pages, Twitter links, news feed links, site links and more. I’ve been around the world and back again before I even finished my morning coffee – because it’s just so easy to get around online. How can SEO be dead? SEO is helping affect everything I just mentioned.

As long as the search engines continue to serve a purpose and as long as there are things we, as marketers, can do to bring qualified visitors into our site, SEO will prevail as an important piece in the digital marketing puzzle. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t changing.

SEO Is A Long-Term Strategy

It didn’t used to be this way. Couple tweaks here, some link purchases over here, throw up some meta data. Voila! We got that number one spot, like Ludacris.

Okay, now let’s stop thinking about how easy it was to do SEO in 2004. (And let’s stop referencing songs from that year too).

It’s 2015 and Google has smartened up. Can you blame them? There was a lot of shady stuff going on for a long time and it greatly affected who was appearing on page 1. From the user’s perspective, you expect to find the best and most accurate results. So that’s what Google has been/is always trying to do. Think about Google Updates/Penalties as a way of helping us all, not hurting SEOs.

Poor links? Bad. Thin content? Bad. Comment spam? Bad. So what are you gonna do about it?

As a result of the many updates over the years, we’ve now arrived at a point where SEO is not easy. Actually, it’s pretty friggin’ hard and time consuming. And with that, it takes time to see results. Do the right thing on your site and make your site worthwhile to the audience. Focus on better/longer/more relevant content, site speed, mobile friendliness, social activity, rich snippets, security, etc. There a thousand factors in Google’s algorithms and many things you can do to help improve your online properties.

I did a tremendous amount of SEO work for a client two years ago and I’m just now seeing the fruits of all that labor. The timeline will range depending on the type of SEO work, the competition, the industry, and the company, but keep in mind that the days of quick fixes and short term results are gone. Do good work and you’ll eventually see results. Just be patient.

Conversions > Traffic

Let’s say your company sells t-shirts to young girls. What value is there in bringing 1,000 visitors to your site made up of 55+ men? The answer is: no value. They aren’t buying anything, and they probably aren’t there for the right reasons (yikes!). Your efforts are unsuccessful and the visitors arriving aren’t helping drive sales.

Thankfully, many of us are [finally] getting past the idea of traffic being the main metric we use to measure online success. And we’re opting to instead look at conversions. But the first step is to identify the conversions that mean most to your business.

Set-up goals and events in Google Analytics (and Tag Manager), or your preferred measurement software, and monitor them constantly. Goals can be sales through an e-commerce store, form completions, downloads, video views, pricing pageviews, and more. Anything that you deem as a value metric (just because you don’t have an online store, doesn’t mean you can’t measure ROI). Then monitor. These converters are the people who are qualified on your website.

Traffic means nothing. Stop leading your reports with it! Conversions will always be more valuable to you than any other metric. Plus, it allows SEO professionals to more accurately justify their work, by basing their progress around conversion-type metrics. Assign dollar values to your conversions and that’s where true ROI becomes evident. We, as marketers, need to do a better job at fighting the good fight against crappy metrics. Start today. Set up those goals and events.

SEO Is Only One Ingredient

I’ve worked with clients that give SEO too much attention (resulting in too little attention elsewhere) and also ones that don’t believe it in altogether. The happy medium is to first understand that SEO is one piece in the marketing mix, and a component of other marketing work. Content writing and content marketing, social media, website development – all of these tasks/projects are seamlessly integrated with SEO. And keeping SEO in mind with all of these can help you perform better.

You can’t make a cake with just flour. Similarly, you can’t expect to see online success with just SEO. If you don’t have the time and the resources to add all the other ingredients – content, social, video, photos, improved development, etc – then don’t even bother. It won’t taste any good.

The best approach to marketing is having an integrated strategy and having many different touchpoints to reach your target audience. SEO should not be your only activity. There must be many more items on your plate. Managing them well, and in unison, will have the greatest affect. No matter the audience, however, SEO should play an integral role. SEO is an ongoing activity. It’s not a one-and-done project, or a tactic that you can start and stop at any time. It’s a constant effort. It takes a ton of time. It doesn’t end. So budget accordingly.

Linking Totally Sucks

Quality links still pose as a factor in search engine algorithms to help dictate rankings and drive traffic. Problem is: Google and the search engines have struck down linking practices pretty heavily over the years because of how bad they were being abused (i.e. Google Penguin). Link farms, paid links, comment links, etc. So we also have to wise up.

Making an effort to specifically go out and get links is very hard. It can be done, but it must be very specific and strategic, getting only quality links placed on sites that you trust. My opinion today is to not focus on linking at all. Let the links come naturally. And there are a number of ways to do that.

  • Blog. A lot. Make them high quality posts and share them on social and through email campaigns.
  • Conduct PR work to garner earned media pieces that feature links back to your site.
  • Host internships and scholarships at your company where descriptions and write-ups will be posted by your local colleges, allowing you to get .edu links.
  • Participate in tradeshows or sponsor different events and submit company bios to the event websites.
  • Conduct cause marketing, like volunteering or donations, and let links come naturally from those non-profit .org sites.
  • Finally, work with your vendors and partners to be featured on their sites or blogs.

If you do ethical work, create unique quality content, and have ongoing outreach, your backlink profile will grow. It’s just the natural effect. Take that Google!

You Can Do It Yourself!

I’ve yet to see a master’s degree available in search engine optimization. That’s because it doesn’t exist. That means that all of us – from the most experienced professional down to the recent college grad – is at a [somewhat] even playing field. We are learning as we go. On the fly. From research, reading blogs, testing, trial and error. There isn’t any piece of paper that proves we know this stuff. It’s just based on our own learnings. And that means that you can get caught up to speed. For free.

Read blogs like Steamfeed (sorry, had to), Moz, SearchEngineWatch, SearchEngineJournal and SearchEngineLand to get the daily scoop on the latest trends. Test out software like SEMRush, Raven Tools, BrightLocal and others to learn more about the art of SEO/website analysis and how to access and utilize data. Then, go to work.

It takes time to get familiar with the lingo and the technical aspects of SEO, but it’s certainly learnable over time. No one has formal education in this stuff. We’re all self-proclaimed experts. So put in the time and the work and you can get the job done yourself. And if you do not have the skills or time to pull it off, that’s where agencies and freelancers come in.

SEO still has a lot of life left in it. Though rapidly changing every day, it’s important to exercise SEO efforts in all of our digital marketing activities to help drive the right people to our sites and lead them down the sales funnels. As long as the web serves a purpose, SEO will prevail. Take these tips into consideration and prep your site properly for long-term success!

This post was originally written for and published on Steamfeed.com. To view the original article, please click here.

The 5 Best Links You Can Get

The 5 Best Links You Can Get

Search Engine Optimization

THESE ARE THE ABSOLUTE

If you ask an SEO specialist what the most important factors are for better rankings, he will likely tell you that quality links are critical. I know. The algorithms are constantly changing and link building is a bear these days compared to even five years ago. But unfortunately, one of the best ways for Google to measure trust and popularity of a site and/or page is still its link profile. So how are going to get those links?

  • Directories and paid links? Think again.
  • Commenting in blog articles? This isn’t 2005.
  • Press releases via wire service? Here, I’d like you to meet Google Penguin.

There have been many link-building tactics that were once successful in the past which won’t help much today. Now, some might even do more harm than good. Of course, we know producing quality content on-site is probably the best technique. It accumulates social shares, draws in relevant readers, and leads to naturally garnered links off-site. But let’s think outside of inbound content for a second. There are a number of strategic ways you can go about landing some great links to add to your backlink profile.

First, I want to make one thing clear: link building is not free. You’ll be hard-pressed to generate a solid list of great links without paying a dime. Even great content costs money, whether it’s in time, software, stock photo purchases, social advertising to push it further, or various other ways. And paying a fly-by-night SEO company from Bangkok for links is not a worthwhile investment either. Those links will surely come back to haunt you with the recent Google updates. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is, and you’re better off spending that money elsewhere.

Kristi Hines from SearchEngineJournal wrote a post several years ago on the different types of links one can work to obtain. She mentions that you first must establish a goal. Some goals include getting more referral traffic, improving reputation, and raising your rankings in the search engines. So if you are looking to specifically embark on a link building effort to raise your position in the SERPs, here’s some advice:

 

Link Type: Earned Media

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 4.27.18 PM

What It Is and How to Get It:

Writing one press release a month and blasting it over a wire service is not a link building strategy. Instead, you need to hire a PR team (or use in-house talent) to build relationships with reporters, editors, writers, bloggers, and secure your online coverage by hand. This can be in the form of features, a company mention by way of having your CEO be a thought-leader on the topic, or you can offer to pen a guest content piece. Regardless of the form, you’ll likely be able to get a link back to your site from any true earned media piece. Think about topics that might be deemed newsworthy. A new product launch, a major c-suite hire, or a new partnership. Don’t discount local media either!

Tip: Pay for good PR! They’ll find good angles and pitch the most relevant media members to cover your company.

 

Link Type: Internships and Scholarships

 

WVU

What It Is and How to Get It:

It’s actually quite hard to get approval for a .edu website. Plus, they often feature many information-rich pages that draw in loads of links. Therefore, authority is strong and highly valued by search engines. Many schools are protective of their sites and don’t hand out links to anyone, so you have to give them a reason to link to you. Think about your company’s field and the schools that make the most sense to build a relationship with. Then, put together an annual scholarship to award to students who are serious about your field. Many schools will give you a chance to provide a write-up and a page on their site. Internships are great too. Speak to the career services office about taking on student interns regularly. The office should feature mini biographies of the companies where its students are often placed. (Don’t forget what this tactic will cost you in terms of company time for training and “babysitting.”)

Tip: Develop interpersonal relationships with relevant schools. Consider the ties that your employees already have.

 

Link Type: Event Participation/Sponsorships

 

Content Marketing

What It Is and How to Get It:

There’s an art to sponsor relations, deciding on the best events to sponsor that make the most sense for your marketing strategy, and getting the most bang for your buck. Many companies blow through their sponsorship budget frivolously without enjoying all the perks. One thing that often gets overlooked in sponsor packages is the option to submit content to an event website. Listings are okay, but you want more. See if you can get a company biography or history submitted and posted, or perhaps seek permission to prepare a guest blog post for the event’s blog or online newsletter. Try to get a spot to speak at the event and have a description typed up for your topic. Work in your backlink(s) naturally and provide disclosure of your sponsorship. Beyond the link benefit, you may even get some extra attention on-site during the event or show.

Tip: Consider sponsoring the top tradeshows in your field or even local events, like a Chamber of Commerce Conference or local TEDx.

 

Link Type: Cause-Related Links

 

Wish

What It Is and How to Get It:

Most companies participate in at least one charity event during the year. Some companies put a lot of emphasis on it, conducting company-wide outings or full participation in events. Think about the ways you can take advantage of a non-profit’s .org website without being a mercenary. Create a unique sponsorship that requires web-based participation, such as a contest or a vote, to work in a company mention and link. Make a major donation and the non-profit will likely write-up an web-based thank-you. Or perhaps one of your employees has a direct affiliation to a cause (maybe they are a survivor) and they would be willing to write up a personal story to be featured on the non-profit’s website.

Tip: Be cautious that you aren’t coming across as “rah-rah, look at me” and instead try to naturally work in your link through a legitimate goodwill effort. 

 

Link Type: Relationship Linking

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 4.30.32 PM

What It Is and How to Get It:

In business, we develop all sorts of relationships, such as with customers, vendors, agencies, partners, friends, etc. Why don’t you take advantage of those opportunities? Put together a list of all the companies that you’ve developed strong ties with over the years. Now begin reaching out to them – the more personal the better – and ask if you can mutually help each other with linking efforts. Don’t let this be a buried listing that tells Google it’s a bogus link. Make sure it looks legitimate. Perhaps they can build a section for their trusted partners with small company biography write-ups. Or, better yet, incorporate the link into a reputable testimonial or high quality case study. Now you’ll kill two birds with one stone and your partner will love you!

Tip: When reaching out, let them know the benefits of links. They’ll be more apt to give into the strategy if they can see what they will get out of it. 

 

Final Points

As you may have noticed, many of the above opportunities take some extra time, money, and effort. To get links online, think OFF-LINE. Many link opportunities can be created through some of these traditional marketing efforts. Maybe your company has opportunities that are readily available to you and you just haven’t noticed them as link prospects. Consider your current efforts and relationships and capitalize. If you are generating high quality links, you could start to see positive results in the SERPs with as few as 15 great new links, in as short of time as a few months. Good luck and happy link building!

Here’s Why Your Company Isn’t Listed On Wikipedia

Here’s Why Your Company Isn’t Listed On Wikipedia

Business

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a great resource for neutral, non-biased information on an assortment of topics from academic subjects to music to historical events and more. It is the sixth most visited website in the world and attracts millions of visitors each day who explore information on the many subjects and utilize the internal and external links to find even more material. Wikipedia has made itself known as being a free and reliable source of information, having articles incorporate cited sources and also reviewed by volunteer editors. Outbound links from Wikipedia are nofollow, meaning the “link juice” is not transferred to websites, however, the links can still be valuable in generating high levels of referral traffic. 

But think about what you personally read on Wikipedia? Business or pleasure? I doubt you learn much about companies through this medium. Only 0.1% of companies are approved to have Wikipedia page entries. That means of the 30 million companies in the U.S., only 30,000 or so have Wikipedia articles about them. A small fraction. This is due to several reasons. Here are Wikipedia’s requirements for company pages.

 

Subject

There are more than four million English-based Wikipedia entries. Some topic types include: company/organization/foundation, people, word, event, musical artist/group/album/song, and general subject. Companies should first look to whether an entry already exists. If not, it’s possible to create a new article. However, not everything is suitable for Wikipedia. Here are some criteria:

  • Articles cannot be about yourself, your company or your organization due to conflict of interest
  • Articles cannot be about your friend, your band, or your website due to notability
  • Articles cannot be about your vendettas or campaigns due to neutrality

Third party writers should submit material on behalf of a person or company to ensure a neutral point of view. If the entry passes the “subject” requirement, the contributor can then move toward submitting an entry in Wikipedia’s content management-like system.

 

Notability

If a new subject makes sense, the contributor should verify its notability. Notability refers to the popularity and recognition of a company. This is determined by the amount of significant coverage the company has garnered from reliable, independent sources. The criteria for notability is as follows:

  • Companies must be the subject of multiple non-trivial published works whose source is independent of the company itself, or
  • Companies must be listed on ranking indices of important companies produced by well-known and independent publications, or
  • Companies must be used to calculate stock market indices. Being used to calculate an index that simply comprises the entire market is excluded.

If the article appears to be written by a member of the company, includes advertising messages or obvious backlinks to the company page, or does not supply proof of notability, it will be deleted by editors.

 

Sources

Wikipedia relies on sources to prove accuracy in the information it provides. It also helps information-seekers find additional material outside of the site. Facts, viewpoints, theories, and arguments may only be included in articles if they have already been published by reliable and reputable sources. Sources should have a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, and be independent of the subject. Entries that do not contain proper citations will be removed.

  • Good sources include books, newspapers, reputable magazines, and academic journals.
  • Bad sources include blogs, MySpace pages, personal knowledge, any source that cannot be independently verified by another editor. 

Sources are the bread and butter of Wikipedia as they demonstrate authority and accuracy of the information. Articles without sources will be removed, as they appear biased and inaccurate.

 

Content

Article content must be unique and not violate copyright infringement. Authors and contributors should be cautious of copy/pasting from websites. Instead, content should be written in the author’s own voice, alongside cited facts and quotes. Finally, it should be written in a neutral tone of voice and shy away from “puffery” or personal opinions and exaggeration of facts.

Company articles will only be approved for Wikipedia inclusion if they meet all of the above criteria.  If sources do not exist, Wikipedia will not be the best platform for a third party company profile. Pages will be deleted quickly.

 

If you meet the criteria, Wikipedia can be a useful online page to educate readers about your company and lead to tremendous amounts of referral traffic. Company entries that are written and have neutral tonnage can upload a draft entry and await reputable sources to prove notability and meet source requirements. For small companies, or those who do not meet the requirements, Wikipedia is probably not an SEO tactic worth investing in. Instead, try other link-building strategies that not only offer “link juice,” but referral traffic opportunities as well.