May 25th, 2012 @ // No Comments
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If you read my piece last week about the Facebook initial public offering of stock, and you’ve read the news this week about the social network and others associated with the IPO getting slapped with class-action lawsuits and investigations, you know why I’m not a stockbroker. What happened? The stock dropped, and many smaller investors lost money – because they did not receive the guidance from Facebook that large institutional investors did, according to the charges.
What happened with Facebook’s IPO was unprecedented, not because of the size of the offering (though it was certainly the largest ever offered), but because of some questionable matters concerning who knew what, and when, and what they did as a result. Henry Blodget gives an excellent rundown of the events. It’s particularly helpful for those of us who aren’t familiar with the conventional industry practices surrounding IPOs, and therefore might not realize just how far Facebook’s IPO deviated from that standard.
So what happened, exactly? Facebook held what is known as the IPO roadshow to drum up interest in the stock. In the middle of that roadshow, the analysts at Facebook’s IPO underwriters cut their estimates for how the company would perform in its second quarter. This event is so unusual that at least a couple of long-time observers wrote that they had literally never heard of it happening before. Why did they cut their estimates? According to the lawsuits, someone at Facebook verbally told them to. But the worst part of it was that these cuts in estimates did NOT get shared with everyone.
Apparently, Facebook expected a weak second quarter. But why? We got a hint as early as May 9, when Facebook made a change to its S-1 filing with the SEC. In the revision, Facebook noted that many more users are accessing its website through mobile devices. This in turn reduced what the social network could charge for ads, which hits the company right in the long-term bottom line.
Here’s the money quote from the filing: “We believe this increased usage of Facebook on mobile devices has contributed to the recent trend of our daily active users (DAUs) increasing more rapidly than the increase in the number of ads delivered. If users increasingly access Facebook mobile products as a substitute for access through personal computers, and if we are unable to successfully implement monetization strategies for our mobile users, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our financial performance and ability to grow revenue would be negatively affected.”
Now any investor who knows about this might take warning from it. The lawsuits allege that Facebook specifically told their underwriter investors to reduce their estimates for Facebook’s second quarter – and didn’t tell anyone else. Blodget explained that “The information about the estimate cut was then verbally conveyed to sophisticated institutional investors who were considering buying Facebook stock, but not to smaller investors.” This adds a whole new perspective to the increases in the amount of Facebook stock that large investors decided to sell when the social network raised the target price of its IPO.
May 25th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Do more tweets of a URL lead to higher search rankings on Google? Do longer articles get more shares on Facebook? Do emails that contain images have lower open rates?
These, and hundreds of other questions marketers are constantly asking, can be answered mathematically through correlation data. Yet, it seems there’s an unfortunate bias against correlations, specifically in the SEO community. Part of this has to do with the well-known maxim “correlation is not causation.” This is eminently true.
However, I LOVE to know correlation, even when it’s wholly disconnected from causation, and I’m surprised more marketers rail against the acquisition of this knowledge. After all, we constantly use correlation-based observations in our everyday lives, scientists use it frequently to discover potential hypotheses and put forward experiments to test them.
For example, I personally care less about what Google actually uses as ranking elements in their massive algorithm than on what kinds of sites and pages tend to perform well. To my mind, it’s much more fascinating to learn, that, for example, stories that appear in the Google News results are much more likely to have images originally sourced by the news publisher than it would be to find out that the algorithm uses an exponential decay factor on freshness based on inputs from a certain set of trusted account usage. The former is actionable; the latter much less so.
We can apply this to email outreach, public relations, talks at conferences, conversion rate optimization (a practice based almost entirely on correlation), and virtually any other quantifiable practice in our work.
Here are just a few examples of great work in the field of marketing that leverage correlation data:
I fail to understand why this work is criticized as being “just correlation; doesn’t mean anything” rather than embraced as “awesome; new correlation data on which to form testable hypotheses.” Yes – correlation does not imply causation. But it does show a relationship, and those relationships can form the basis of guesses and tests. I find it challenging to argue why this work should not be done and shared, yet the bias is clearly out there.
Of course, there’s always the danger of presenting correlation research which is then misinterpreted or misused, as the folks from PHDComics brilliantly illustrated below:
But, I’d rather risk some misunderstanding and have the data available than not investigate the connections between things in the marketing world out of fear.
Here’s just a few ideas for correlation-based research that I’d love to see someone put together:
If you or your team feel confident, capable, and excited about potentially doing this work but need some funding or publishing support, we’d love to talk. Just drop me an email (rand followed by the @ and seomoz dot org).
p.s. Check out Dr. Pete’s excellent “Mathographic” on correlation vs. causation to learn more about the difference and the nuances.
May 25th, 2012 @ // No Comments
SEO strategies have gone through incredible amounts of evolution over the last year. From algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda to new search engine restrictions on overoptimization and spammy links, optimization methods for getting the best rankings in search engines all across the web have advanced. The recent power of social sharing has had a huge effect on search, and search engine company recommendations to get the best rankings in their search engines have changed as crawl tactics are getting smarter. SEOs of all levels have had to re-learn strategies and best practices to make sure their website’s SEO is set up for winning results.
Does the mountain of seemingly endless updates feel overwhelming yet? Have no fear, fellow Mozzers, because Roger and the SEOmoz crew have been hard at work creating a guide to serve as your one-stop-shop for the most current SEO trends. We’re proud to announce the release of our shiny new Beginner’s Guide to SEO!
Our legendary first version of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO was read over 1 million times, but like all vintage models, it was in need of a makeover. The updated Beginner’s Guide to SEO is designed to describe all areas of SEO in regards to the advances in search over the last two years – from keyword discovery, to making a site search engine friendly, to link building, to marketing the unique value of your site’s offerings. We’ve highlighted new limitations and contributing factors to last year’s evolution of search along with our own suggestions to optimize your website for search success.
The newly updated Beginner’s Guide to SEO is bursting with new changes, but here are the top ten additions to keep an eye out for:
What is SEO? Where does it come from? Why is it important? These questions might sound all too familiar, but over the last year the answers have evolved. SEO is no long just about “engines,” but is focused on making your website better for people. This guide takes a more human-focused approach to deducing the wonderful world of SEO to help both humans and bots live in harmony. (Intro Chapter)
Ever wonder if you should take a swing at SEO? We’ve laid a solid foundation for the “why SEO is for everyone” argument to give you an in-depth view of how strong SEO is crucial to the success of every website. Take a look to see if it’s right for you (hint: the answer is yes!). (Intro Chapter)
Home-grown SEO is a trend that is catching on, but there’s a lot to learn to make sure your site’s SEO is up to par. Whether you’re considered using a consultant, firm, or learning SEO on your own, this new section is a must-read. We’ve highlighted a variety of important factors to consider before taking on the task of becoming your site’s very own SEO guru. (Intro Chapter)
This awesome new section highlights three ways people look for information through search queries fitting into the categories of Do, Know, and Go. What are users looking for? Does your site have what it takes to be a true competitor? It all starts with a user typing words into a small box. Start propelling your success by giving this chapter a once – or twice, or ten times, no judgement – over! (Chapter 2)
The years of 2011 and 2012 have seen a massive surge in social sharing and its effects on search. Google has begun to incorporate a huge number of social signals into its search results, and similar algorithm changes show no signs of slowing across all search engines. It’s more important than ever before to optimize your content for social sharing success, and this section explains how to boost your rankings though your social networks. (Chapter 7)
The first and most challenging step in any successful link building campaign is to create goals and strategies, but with so many options, where should you start? We’ve put together a list of five link building strategies that can help increase search traffic, boost your rankings, encourage frequent search engine crawling, and increase referring link traffic to your site. That sweet link juice tastes so good! (Chapter 7)
SEOs tend to use a lot of tools. A LOT of tools. What could be worse than using tools that are outdated? We’ve created a master list of the most current search engine tools in Google Webmaster, Bing Webmaster, and SEOmoz Open Site Explorer that will help you to identify errors, read stats, identify powerful links, pull metrics, and maximize your mind-boggling SEO powers to their full potential. (Chapter 8)
Now that you’re using updated search engine tools, you’ll need to update your data tracking strategies to match. Chapter eight will navigate you through a series of helpful tips and tricks for making the most of your new and improved data. Analytics lovers unite! (Chapter 8)
Like our friends Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, the SEOmoz team loves to disprove myths and misconceptions about the wonderful world of search engines. Because search has gone through such an evolution over the last year, many myths about search have undergone substantial changes as well. From meta tags and keyword stuffing to paid search and search engine spam, we’ve dedicated an entire chapter of this guide to explaining the real stories behind the myths to help SEOs understand what’s required to perform effectively. (Chapter 9)
They say that if you can measure it, you can improve it, and we couldn’t agree more. Chapter 10 is packed full of new recommendations on metrics to track, analytics software to implement, metrics provided by search engines to use, and tips to applying the data you track towards real life solutions. Make the most out of your hard-earned data by reading this section. These are tips you can’t afford to miss! (Chapter 10)
No matter your level of SEO wizardry, we encourage you to check out the updated guide for brand new strategies that will help drive your optimization to the next level. Leave your comments below and share the love with your friends, family, colleagues, and robot buddies!
May 25th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Content Marketing is hot. White hot. SEO and digital marketing thought leaders are declaring that Content Marketing is the next big thing. Even Rand is touting its importance.
The strategy of Content Marketing makes sense: instead of pushing messages about your product at prospects, pull prospects towards you by publishing content about your prospects’ interests. Search rank, traffic, leads and all sort of goodness flow from this approach.
So the conversation is no longer about if or why an organization should practice Content Marketing. But the still unanswered question is “How?” How does a brand actually become a publisher, produce great content, and attract traffic and generate conversions?
So if you’re wondering “How?”, fear not. This post will provide a guide on how to build and operate a Content Marketing Machine. But, to be clear, I’m not talking about dipping a toe in the water: doing some blog posts, busting out an infographic. I’m talking about a sustained effort to generate content excellence in your category. I’m talking about a machine that generates more traffic and leads at lower cost than all of your other channels combined.
First, let’s take a look at the machine, all of its pistons, cogs, smokestacks and miscellaneous parts. This will give you an overview of what you’re building and what you’re going to operate:
Now we’ll go over the machine, part by part.
What is the goal, the end output for your Content Marketing Machine? Content marketing is utilized for lots of objectives, including customer retention, upsell, support and brand awareness. But by far the major objective for most Content Marketers is Lead Generation / Customer Acquisition, which can take the form of adding an item to a shopping cart, filling out a lead-gen form, or signing up for a trial.
Your plan then becomes to create a content-powered path that takes your prospect from where they are today to the end goal. This plan is best plotted on a matrix, called The Content Grid, where one axis lists your customer personas and the other axis lists your various stages in the buying cycle. We can do a close-up on this part of the machine here:
Then for each cell in this grid, you have to ascertain what content can attract the persona to that stage and help move them on to the next stage. Specifically each cell should answer the following questions:
Remember, at the top of your buying cycle, the prospect does not care at all about you and your brand. Your content here should be at some intersection between your prospect’s interests and the expertise within your organization. The content here at the top should never promote your own products and services. But as you move down the Content Grid and the prospect has indicated interest in your products and services, your content should provide more information about them.
So you’ve got a plan. Now you have to figure out who is going to execute it. Begin by looking at your grid. Who can produce these pieces of content? Is it going to be internal contributors? External paid freelancers? Guest posters?
Naturally this depends a good amount on your budget. But for most organizations it is a mix of internal and external contributors: you want to utilize your unique internal expertise, but you also use external talents to share the burden, particularly on rich media content like video and infographics.
While there is a variance in the mix for the set of contributors, there is one consistent, crucial role: the Managing Editor. Many stakeholders will submit ideas and content into the Content Marketing Machine, will turn its Audience Development crank, and will pull leads and reports out of the Machine. But you need at least one person whose primary responsibility is to man the controls of the machine: to plan the editorial calendar, to supervise content production and distribution, to generate traffic and conversions, to monitor metrics and to be accountable for results. Without such a person, you aren’t operating a Machine, but rather a small appliance (perhaps a Content Marketing toaster).
Ideally the Managing Editor should have content experience from a journalism, copy writing or PR background. But the Managing Editor should also know the web and the ways of search, social, analytics and link-building. Lastly the Managing Editor should be familiar with marketing and the end objectives of driving traffic and conversions.
The Ideas section of the Content Marketing Machine is where marketers most often struggle. In the Content Marketing Institute’s 2012 Content Marketing Research Report, over half cited consistently outputting content as their greatest challenge, which a particular struggle over figuring out what to produce. To truly become a publisher requires consistently producing content 3, 4, 5 times a week. What in the world, marketers lament, am I going to write about every day?
Remember: the bulk of the content that you are going to produce is about your customers’ interests, not about your products. Thus the best way to generate content ideas is to understand what your customers are interested in.
There are two best practices for idea generation. First is online social listening. Dive into the categories you are covering on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. See what topics the communities are interested in. QA sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers can identify the specific questions your prospects want answered.
The other best practice is to leverage the ears in your organization. Your colleagues in sales, services, support, etc. are talking with customers every day. Encourage them to listen for nuggets of customer concern and then submit those into the Content Marketing team. To give your colleagues incentive to participate, make sure that their submissions don’t end up in a black box. Instead, if you reject them, let them know. If you accept them and convert the idea into content, keep them informed of the content and how it performs. The best organizations at this even keep a leaderboard to showcase which employees are making the best contribution to the Content Marketing ideas effort.
As you get your idea generation going, you’ll then need to operate the heart of the Content Marketing Machine, the content production. The centerpiece of production is an Editorial Calendar. The calendar should specify who is going to create what piece of content, when they will have it submitted, when you plan on publishing it, and to where you plan on publishing it (your site, YouTube, Slideshare, all of the above, etc.).
The Editorial Calendar should look something like this:
In your Editorial Calendar you should also note the Customer Persona and Buying Stage that the content is intended for. As you look over your Calendar, you should be able to visually see whether or not you producing the right content mix to cover the various cells in your Content Grid.
Many organizations can get buried in the logistics of the Production stage. Many stakeholders can be involved, including: the idea generator, the content creator, graphic designers, the Managing Editor, the SEO expert, the social media team, Legal PR (for approvals), etc. Often too much of the effort goes into coordinating these players instead of creating great content.
If you’re in a moderately sized organization with decent complexity, make sure your map out the process involved to get content out the door. Who will submit the content? Who needs to approve it and at what stage of the process? Who is going to be posting messages to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn once the content has been published? Identify the required workflows and have a plan to manage them so that your efforts don’t get consumed by administrative tasks.
So you’re publishing content now! Your machine is up and running! Congratulations!
However, creating the content is just half of your task. The other half needs to be around getting visitors to that content, which is the Audience Development component of the Content Marketing Machine. Audience Development breaks down into 4 major buckets:
Influencers. Influencers are the most important component of Audience Development. Begin by identifying the influencers in your space: the individuals and organizations in your topic that have lots of visitors to their sites, followers to their Twitter accounts, etc. In other words, these are the places on the web where the prospects who you want to read your content hang out.
Your objective is to win links from these Influencers to your content. Get started by building relationships with these Influencers. Retweet their tweets. Comment on their blogs. Get into a dialog.
Once you’ve gotten on the influencer’s radar, craft content with the end objective–the Influencer link–in mind. Ask yourself: What content would be of enough interest to this Influencer that they would want to share it with their audience? Or try to bring the Influencer into the process from the start: tell them that you are working on a piece of content and would appreciate their feedback or a quote.
Search. Winning these Influencer links is the key to getting referral traffic to your content. It is also the biggest way that you can improve category two in Audience Development: search traffic. Win links from authoritative influencers, and the Search Engines will improve your rank, driving more traffic. Of course you need to be deliberate about this process: identify the search keywords that your personas will search for; target and optimize your content for keyword; and track how your content efforts, keyword by keyword, are effecting your search ranking.
Paid. Despite all of the inbound, organic goodness that Content Marketing centers on, Paid traffic does have a place in the mix. Whether it is SEM, or Facebook ads, or sponsored Tweets, or paid Email newsletter distribution, using paid tactics to drive content part of Content Marketing Machine mechanism. What’s interesting to note, however, is how Content Marketers are using paid to drive traffic to their content pages (i.e. about the prospect’s interests) instead of their product pages (about the marketer’s products). The process of developing a relationship with a prospect built on informative content is so powerful that marketers are taking the more patient but more effective approach of buying traffic to their content.
Syndication. Finally, the content you produce need not be limited to your own properties, whether your site, YouTube account, Slideshare account, etc. The most straightforward way to earn a link from a site where your prospects frequent is to give that site quality content. Syndicating your content earns at least one link to your site through your author bio, but also begins to develop a relationship between you and your prospects before they have ever visited your site. Particularly at the beginning, others sites have a lot more traffic than yours does, so syndicating content there is a great way to get your traffic off the ground.
OK, now the Machine is running full tilt! You have content being produced, and visitors coming for that content. As the Machine runs, you need to keep an eye on a set of gauges for each part of the machine so that you can learn how it’s running and continue to tune it and optimize performance.
Ideas Production. Keep an eye on the mix of content you are pushing out the door. Do you have the right distribution across the personas from your Content Grid? Are you hitting the relevant categories?
Audience Development. What Influencers are sending you the most traffic? You should be sure to express your gratitude to these Influencers and link back to them. What types of content are succeeding in generating the most valuable links? You need to double down on that content. What keywords have high search volumes but fail to drive you much traffic? You need to improve your production of content around these keywords to improve your rank. Which paid channels are proving the most cost effective traffic?
Traffic Conversion. This is the major objective as it gets to our end goal of the conversion. All of your content needs to be assessed for how it is performing in bringing first time visitors to your site, bringing back returning visitors, and moving them down the buying cycle, particularly to the conversion event (e.g. form submission; add to cart; start a trial) that you are looking to track. Score all of your content on these objectives, and look for the trends: which authors are pulling in the most new visitors? which content types (e.g. blog post, eBook, video) are keeping each of my personas coming back? which categories of content are leading to the most conversion events.
Every initial content strategy is a best guess. Only by operating your Machine and monitoring your metrics can you understand what’s working and what’s not working and improve your performance over time.
And indeed, you have to recognize that the results of Content Marketing accrue over time. Traditional marketing tactics, i.e. advertising, involve the Marketer renting the attention of someone else’s audience: the marketer pays the media to be able to put the marketer’s message in front of the media’s audience. Despite the problems of advertising, this renting has immediate effects, because the media already has an audience.
Content Marketing takes longer, particularly because, when you start, you have no audience! But don’t be deterred! Just like the difference between buying and renting a house, with Content Marketing, you are building equity as your build your audience. Over time, your audience becomes an incredible asset: a perpetual source of leads / trials / new customers at extremely low cost relative to traditional marketing (i.e. advertising). There are now many brands who have successfully built and now operate such a Content Marketing Machine (here are 50 examples).
This highest state of Content Marketing nirvana is for your Content Marketing Machine to become self-perpetuating. Typically the machine works with content as the input and audience / leads as the output. But once you’ve become such the authority on your topic, your output, the audience, will begin to supply the inputs, the content (see prior section on Syndication).
SEOmoz has, very deservedly, reached this highest state of Content Marketing nirvana. I, in fact, am an audience member providing the inputs! I hope that these inputs, this content, have been helpful to you as you look to build and operate your own Content Marketing Machine. I’m eager to answer any questions. Please fire away in the comments!
May 25th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Howdy SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to address some of the myths that form in the SEO world that get people really scared and worried and asking questions in QA and on Twitter and on forums going, “Hey, wait a minute. I heard that this is a problem. Is this going to cause something bad with my site?” Let me put these to ease and try to explain each one. We’ve got ten. Let’s get to them.
Number one: I’m worried because I have too many links pointing to my site from one particular domain. Maybe it’s a site-wide link. Maybe they just embedded you in their blogroll, and it’s linking to you. This isn’t a problem unless the links are coming from a highly manipulative source, in which case you’d hope they weren’t linking to you anyway. But I wouldn’t stress too much about it. I’ll get to people pointing bad links to you in a second. If you have 80,000 links pointing to you from one particular site, don’t stress. This isn’t going to kill your SEO. It’s not the end of the world. If there’s a good, editorial, natural reason why those links should exist, it’s probably going to help you. What it won’t do is help you 79,000 times more than if you just had a few pages on there, but it will help. It’s not a terrible thing. Don’t panic. I would almost never worry about this unless the links are from particularly terrible, spammy pages, in which case you might sort of worry, right? People have been worried particularly with Google’s Penguin update that, “Oh, the links that I have might be hurting me.” Great. Okay.
If you bought those links and you did it in a manipulative way, you acquired them somehow, fine. Contact those people. Please tell them to take those links down. If other people are just building spammy links to you, do not sweat it.
Sweat earning great editorial links. Great editorial links, a fantastic site, great user experience, tremendously valuable content that people don’t want to live without, and building a real brand on the Internet, those things will protect you far better from spammy links than trying to contact webmasters one by one and get them to take down your link profiles. There are cases where you might need to do this if you have done or someone else has done bad linking on your behalf in the past, but these are rare. They’re few and far between. I’d worry much, much more about building up a great site.
Number three: My keyword density is too high. I don’t know where this concept came from. I know years ago people worried about keyword density as in the percentage of keywords on a particular page that are my target phrase that I’m trying to rank for. That’s a good search engine signal, and I should try to make my keyword density 2.78%. No. A) You don’t need to worry about that, and (B) you also don’t need to worry about too high. There was then this myth that, oh wait, if my keyword is too high a percentage of the content on the page, maybe they won’t use it for ranking, but they’ll flag it for spam. Years ago Bing did say, “Yes, keyword density, we might look at that as a signal of how we do things.” If you’re writing content naturally and you’ve got a great user experience, and it just so happens that you have an e-commerce product page where the title is the name of the product and then the product description contains the title twice, and that’s just how it goes and that’s natural and it’s in the headline, and it happens that, oh no, my keyword density here is 30% or 40%
of the text on the page, don’t panic. That’s okay. That’s a fine thing.
As long as you’re doing things naturally, you really never need to worry about keyword density. It’s when you’re doing manipulative kinds of things and building pages just to rank and stuffing them with keywords, then you might start to get into danger territory. But even then, keyword density is probably not the way to measure it. Measure it by looking at the page and being logical and saying, “Does this look like a great page for users?” If not, “Wait a minute. Is the word on here four times, and I only have ten other words? Oh no.” Don’t panic.
Number four: Other sites are scraping your site or your blog – your RSS feed is the most common way – and then republishing it elsewhere. Not only should you not panic about this, but I might say you should be a little proud of this. This mean that great, the Internet has discovered you. They’ve decided your RSS feed is good, useful, and worth copying and reposting. If they’re reposting other places, 99% of the time they’re also linking back to anything that you link to, including your own site. So having your blog picked up and scraped is just fine. Some of these, yes, they’re spammy, manipulative, and junky. Don’t worry. Google’s not going to hold that against you. It’s not your fault. Every site on the Web has this. Literally SEOmoz, I think, is copied by 200 plus different aggregators who all republish our content, maybe more than that. Don’t stress. Don’t worry about it. What you can do, what you should do, is make sure that those links that you’ve got are absolute links, so that when they’re copied and picked up, they point back to your site. That’s a great way to go. But don’t panic about this. A lot of these uses are also legitimate.
Number five: What if Google sees my analytics because I’m using Google Analytics, and then they see that my engagement rates are low? I have a high bounce rate, low time on site. Are they going to punish me for low engagement and give me a penalty? No, they are not. Don’t panic about this either. Number one, Google has promised that the Google Webspam Team and Search Quality Team do not get data directly from Google Analytics. In the aggregate, they might be using it to inform some things, but they are not looking at your site’s analytics and saying, “Oh, let’s punish that guy. Let’s punish him for having low engagement, low time on site.” They might see that people are bouncing off your page and back to the search results and being unhappy and those kinds of things. But if you’re delivering a good user experience, if you’re delivering a great answer to simple questions, your bounce rate is going to be high, and your engagement and time on site is going to be low because you’ve answered the user’s query very quickly. Think of QA sites that are essentially answering dumb, simple questions like: What year Franklin Roosevelt was born? Oh, good, it was this year. Good, I’m out of here I’m done. You’re gone. Don’t worry about this low engagement, low usage. And don’t worry about Google seeing into your analytics. They’re not going to penalize you for it.
Number six: If this link is reciprocal, meaning I link to this site and they link back to me, will I get penalized for it? Does it lose its value?
Should I not link to the places that are linking to me? What if the New York Times links to me? I want to share that article with all my readers and say, “Oh, look, the New York Times covered me.” But I don’t want to make it a reciprocal link. Stop worrying. This is not a big concern. You don’t need to worry about reciprocal links from this perspective. Years ago, there was this practice, and it still exists a little bit, where people would create pages and pages of links. They’d all point to their friends who they found on the Web. Their friends would all point back to them, and reciprocal links became a bad word because it was a spammy tactic that the engines had a pretty easy time identifying. But if you’re just sharing the stuff that’s sharing you, this is a fine thing to do. Don’t panic. Don’t worry that just because you’re linking to something, the link back won’t count.
Number seven: I’m linking with non-ideal anchor text. Is this going to hurt me? I have this page and I want to point to it internally or externally with a link, and I wanted it to contain this anchor text, but it’s not as user-friendly and I’m worried people won’t click through on it, or it seems a little manipulative, or I just can’t get my product team to buy into that. It’s okay. Don’t panic. Don’t worry about that either. In fact, there’s a lot of suspicion in the SEO space right now that Google is looking at exact match anchor text and saying, “This stuff is not natural. This isn’t normal. Why are people linking like this?” If you have an opportunity where it fits well with user experience, fits well with the content, and the anchor text makes sense, great. Fantastic. Take that opportunity. Earn that link. But don’t stress if many of your links are pointing with a brand. This is again part of that density myth, where people think, oh, wait a minute. If 100 links point to me but 50 of them don’t have my anchor text, then I won’t rank for that. This is not a problem. You’re going to be just fine. Don’t stress.
Number eight: There are links in my footer. I have a footer on my website. I’ve got links in there. Are those going to negatively affect me? I’ve heard lots of bad things about footer links. Most of the time, this is not a problem. Again, it goes back to the same thing that we’ve been talking about throughout this Whiteboard Friday, which is if you’re doing it for good user experience. If we take a look at one of my favorite footers, which is on Zappos.com. They have a great footer. It’s long, it’s lengthy. It almost feels too long, but it has fun stuff in there. It makes me like the company even more. It links to a lot of good things. Great, no problem. However, if you’re stuffing tons and tons of links and you’ve got a footer that, oh here’s an exact match anchor text; there’s another exact match anchor text; there’s another exact match anchor text; and I’ve got a big old list of them, and it goes all the way down my footer, you start to look like you’re manipulating the search results. We’ve actually seen people who’ve pulled these or made their footers look more natural and more user-
experience centered, the penalties will actually be lifted. So it looks like Google algorithmically penalizes people for tons of stuffing and bad keywords in the footer. But just because it’s in the footer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Don’t stress just because of this word footer and footer links.
Number nine: Will URLs without keywords prevent me from ranking well? I don’t know where this myth came from, but there’s like this world of, “Oh, look, it’s /123 or /?ide=7 instead of /keyword which I wanted to rank for.”
This is not a tremendous problem. Certainly if you can get to the point where your URLs are keyword friendly and they’re static, that’s good. That’s best practices. You want to make it so that when someone reads your URLs offline or sees them in an email or a tweet, they go, “Oh, I bet I can guess at exactly what’s on that page,” and that’s a wonderful thing. Yes, when people copy and paste those URLs, the keywords will be in there. That’s nice. But this is not going to prevent you from ranking. You see tons of pages that rank very well that do this. I would not stress about this. I wouldn’t necessarily jump through tons of hoops to have all your URLs rewritten. It can be a big engineering effort. Sometimes it pays off. When you’re doing a site redesign anyway, go for it. But I wouldn’t make that the centerpiece of your SEO campaign. Oftentimes, this is not going to move the needle as much as you think it will.
Number ten, our last one: What about link bait? I’m worried about link bait and content marketing efforts and building this great content stuff, having a blog, having infographics, and having these cool videos, because they’re not my product pages or sales pages. Won’t Google eventually penalize for this because they don’t want to see people just engaging in producing great content and earning links to their site? No. Google and Bing have both stated very specifically that they love this practice of content marketing, of doing great stuff on the Internet, even if it’s only partially or semi-relevant to your particular niche or industry or customers. This is like saying, “Hey, I have a business that hosts a bunch of events. I have a business that donates to charity. I have a business that is one of the best employers in the state.” It is interesting and does cool stuff outside of our pure product and sales process. That is a good thing. That is a great way to earn branding and awareness and attention. It’s a great way to do well in social media and earn a following there. It’s a great way to have content that’s spread throughout the Web. It will help with SEO because of the rising tide phenomenon, which is essentially your site is this ship sailing on the ocean, and as the tide rises from all the links that are pointing into you, essentially your domain’s link juice rises and authority rises, all the pages on there will perform slightly better. Google is not going to take away this power and essentially say,
“Oh, you know what? We’re only going to count links to the exact page and we’re only going to count them exactly this. We don’t want this concept of domain authority.” They love the concept of domain authority because they love the world of brands and branding. I would not stress that your content marketing and link bait efforts are going to be penalized or devalued. In fact, I would continue to focus on them. And if you can find ways to make the audience overlap well with what the people are actually buying, that’s even more fantastic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Whiteboard Friday. I want you to de-stress, stop worrying about some of these myths that I know are popping up all over the place. Stop being scared of words like footer links and footers and URLs without keywords and keyword density. Just because these words are out there, just because they’re causing problems for some people who are doing things in a spammy, manipulative way, doesn’t mean every SEO needs to stress about them.
All right, everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.