April 9th, 2012 @ // No Comments
I love SEO tools. I’m sort of a pack-rat when it comes to Google Docs tools and Excel add-ins. I went absolutely nuts when Tom Critchlow posted his Google Docs SEO tutorial on distilled. Since then, I’ve rolled a few tools of my own and collected pretty much anything to do with SEO and spreadsheets since then.
I’m a firm believer in bootstrapping. As an SEO consultant, the less I have to spend on tools, the more I can reinvest in my company and grow the business. With an eye toward the virtues of bootstrapping, I’ve assembled a list of the best SEO tools for Excel and Google docs I’ve ever seen. I hope you find it as endlessly intriguing and useful as I do.
Before we get started, be sure you have an SEOmoz/Linkscape API key. That will be important.
First off, I want to show you a tool I concocted after reading Tom’s tutorial. It borrows heavily from the example in Lesson two, but I want to give you a quick idea of the potential here; I’m by no means a programmer, but if I can make my own tools with these things, so can you.
Long Tail Keyword Prospecting – Make a Copy
Long Tail Keyword Prospecting – Instructions (right here!)
The basic idea behind this tool is to quickly explode your keyword list with long-tail goodness. It’s not an exceptionally robust tool, but it’s great for brainstorming article topics and the like.
You’ve got four columns here. The formulas behind the sheet will slap the various permutations together and run each of them through Google Suggest, spitting out a list of 2-10 keyword suggestions.
The really fun thing about this tool is how easy it is to drill down to the uber long-tail phrases; I got a suggestion for “car speakers reviews” from the root “car speakers”, so let’s drill a bit deeper and run the suggest for “car speakers reviews” by adding “reviews” to our 3rd word column.
Ta-da! Instant prospecting. Follow the link above and make a copy of the spreadsheet. Then, have your way with it.
The folks at SEOgadget deserve a huge thanks for this; almost half of the tools I’ve collected have come from them. Their Content Strategy Generator Tool is an amazing piece of work that gives you more trending headlines and topics on a keyword search than you could possibly handle in one sitting. Couple this with the link prospecting tool, and you’ll never be able to use the “writer’s block” excuse again.
This tool doesn’t take much explanation: the results speak for themselves. Drop a topical keyword in the query box (currently holds “hotel”) and watch the magic happen. The sheet will automagically pull top news headlines, tweets, YouTube videos, Digg and Reddit results, Topsy results, Yahoo! Answers, Blog Catalog results, Fark articles and more. I know, I cried too.
This sheet will keep your finger firmly on the pulse of the news in your niche. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me salivate.
Distilled practically sweats innovation and tools, and this one from Tom Anthony is a salty, gorgeous example of that.
When you want to analyze keyword competition quickly, you can crack open this spreadsheet and see the MozRank, domain authority and number of linking root domains.
It’s also a great way to give a client an at-a-glance look at what they’re up against. Maybe it will help them manage their expectations when they’re telling you to get them to rank #1 for “credit cards.”
Oh, and remember when I said you’d need a Linkscape API token? That time is now.
This one is pretty self-explanatory; it pulls Linkscape/OpenSiteExplorer data into a Google spreadsheet. This is a great baseline template for rolling your own competitive analysis tools and the like. I don’t really feel like this needs more explanation, so go in and mess around with it. If you break it, just make a new copy from the link above.
Oh, holy crap. It’s Tom Anthony again! I’d forgotten where I’d found this tool until I started writing this post. Let us all bow our heads and offer our oblations to the great Tom Anthony. Amen.
This is similar to the Link Detective tool shared in this post not too long ago. It builds out a visual representation of your link profile, helping you identify anomalies that you can smooth out or correct.
In the instructions Tom provides in the link above, you can see his analysis of a client’s link profile, highlighting the fact that they have an abnormally large percentage of links from sites with a domain authority of 25-34. The high concentration of similar domain authorities can be a signal of a link wheel, blog network or paid link. Instant actionable data! Delicious.
Oh, you thought we were done? No way, Jose. Now we’re to the Excel section. Excel has a few advantages over Google Docs spreadsheets, and Gdocs does better with some things than Excel. The takeaway is that it’s better to use both than to rely on just one. So here are the three best Excel SEO tools I’ve seen.
Oh look, SEOgadget again, who could’ve figured?
This tools makes analyzing potential traffic crazy easy; toss in a list of the keywords you’re targeting, mess with the numbers and roll a formula to determine CTR and you’ve got some solid projections. While it does require an AdWords API key (which can be difficult to obtain if you’re not a PPC guy), it’s well worth the effort.
The possibilities with this add-in are immense; you can roll this tool together with OpenSiteExplorer reports and domain-centric keyword suggestions to quickly estimate competitor’s search traffic, or, you can judge the fidelity of Google’s predictions against your own traffic data by pulling Google Analytics reports into Excel.
Let’s hear it one more time for SEOgadget! Those guys are awesome.
This tool is a lot like the OSE Link Profile Google Docs tool shared above, but in Excel. It also builds in a categorization element that makes segmenting link profiles easy. Oh, and the reports look super sexy too.
You pull in your link profile CSV from OpenSiteExplorer and this spreadsheet will analyze and categorize your link profile, showing you anchor text distribution, and buckets of links based on known directories, article distributors, blog networks and so on. Sexy, sexy data.
This is the holy grail of Excel SEO extensions. It has one of the most robust feature sets I’ve seen in an extension, and Niels is updating it constantly. It has mind-boggling scraping capabilities (get a proxy if you plan on using them a lot) and a ton of on-page analysis tools.
I don’t think I can say enough about this extension; it’s one of the best free SEO tools out there, and you can use its functions to roll your own tools. I don’t need to waste your time talking about it. Go download it and have fun!
Excel and Google Docs can be some of the best agile tools around, and these are some of the best I’ve found.
What are your favorite Excel/Google Docs SEO tools? Did I miss one?
April 1st, 2012 @ // No Comments
My name is Aaron Wheeler and, up until a couple of weeks ago, I was the manager of the Help Team here at SEOmoz. Rand’s been out of the office at conferences and I’ve decided it’s time to make my move. I’ve been waiting for this moment for 2 years now, sitting idly by, watching SEOmoz use a bunch of robots to tell us about websites and links and the internets. Robots! Robots don’t have brains or morals! How could they possibly find links? Build reports? I played the Portals. I know what happens when you let robots run things.
Needless to say, I’ve decided to make a few changes since Rand’s been gone. Let’s get these engineers off their robot-loving keisters and out into the world, finding links. Let’s stop pretending a bunch of magical “computers” can somehow “build” you a report (they think they’re human!). As part of my takeover, I’ve hired a personal, top-tier videographer, Nick Sayers, to document all of the amazing things I’m doing here. Watch and bask in the glory of the new SEOmoz!
Hope you enjoyed that! Let me know what you think about my new strategies in the comments below.
March 30th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Link building isn’t really link building. It’s relationship building. Links are just the proof of the relationship, as are the tweets, likes, sales… relationship building is link building. Your social graph is your linkerati.
Tom Critchlow encapsulates this with one of these Distilled Pro Tips:
Here’s a few tactics and strategies to build and leverage relationships that lead to links, likes, sales and more. Outreach is for tomorrow. Relationships are for life. Let’s go!
The single most important concept in SEO, marketing, business and life can be summed up with Simon Sinek’s talk here. His theory of ‘The Golden Circle’ is central to everything you and I do, and yet is remarkably simple to understand.
Watch the following TED talk, if not now then today at lunch…. (I promise, it’s worth it!)
Read more at Start With Why.
Everyone knows what they do. Some people know how they do it, whether that be a unique selling point, proprietary process or secret tactic. But very few people know why they do what they do. Very few people know why they get out of bed in the morning (it’s not to make money or profit: that’s a result). People who know why they do what they do prove their belief in what they do.
What do you believe in?
It’s incredibly frustrating working with people, doing SEO or anything, who don’t know why they do what they do. It’s also incredibly frustrating working with link prospects who don’t know what they do!
This is your big action point before you move forward. Find your why. Use your why to identify other people and organisations who share your why. Find people who share your beliefs, and if you clearly understand your why, you don’t necessarily need Followerwonk, Buzzstream or any of these link prospecting tools to find people who share your belief. Connect with people who share your why, who share your mission.
You need a reason to get in touch that isn’t totally selfish (“gimme a link” just doesn’t cut it). Find something they believe in and orchestrate a message, event or project around that. An interview for a blog post or guide, product review or maybe just some advice on a project? Of course, you could get your in by pointing out broken links to a webmaster. Ask yourself, if they knew what you were doing and knew you didn’t reach out to them, would they be upset?
So, how to get in touch with these people…?
Your first touch needn’t be as weird as this…
First touch methods should never interrupt or inconvenience your prospect, so I’d avoid cold calling (no matter how successful folks say it is, it ain’t long haul!). Don’t pin your prospects to the spot when you barely know them. Become respected by respecting your link prospects. Remember, you’re building the relationship now. The links all come later
Don’t use email. Not for your first touch. Your inbox is bomb-proof fortress, as is your link prospects. Email from relatively unknown senders is just as bad as anonymous email (why should they care?). With email, it’s too easy to be lazy and become less authentic.
As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, it’s as if we’re all 19-year old dudes in a bar. We try to close on the first encounter. Don’t. You’ve got to put a ring on it. You’ve got to get in the long haul game. Get their respect as well as their attention.
That was an extract from Gary Vee’s QA at Inc500 Seminar 2011. You should *totally* watch the full thing here
Of course, events are a great way to acceptably meet your link prospects, without appearing as an unknown contact. To casually introduce oneself over a drink is not just acceptable, but welcomed. Of course, this is even better is to have already had your first touch.
In the SEO world, attending events like LinkLove London has been incredible for building relationships. It’s not too often you get to casually talk SEO with a guy like Wil Reynolds (and all the speakers really loosen up at the after parties! ). But that’s where relationships were formed…
LinkLove 2011 was in March. September 1st 2011, the Distilled Linkbait Guide went live and I called back upon those relationships to help get the word out. That’s the not-so-amazing secret to getting links from places like Seth Godin’s blog!
Pssst! If you’re coming to LinkLove London and want to build deep and meaningful relationships with dozens of other smart SEOs showing up there (seriously, that’s half the reason for going) then do what I do and try hovering around the registration desk where Distilled SEOs tend to gravitate to, and the nearest door to the main congress hall where speakers tend to stand between sessions. The Distilled guys will really thank me for that… :p
Oh, and at the after party, just make sure you’re the first guy to get a drink into the hands of whoever you want to talk to, and you’re away. You really can get one-on-one time with a speaker… you just have to be the one in front of them. See you there!
There are plenty of opportunities where people are reaching out publicly for a response; there’s a goldmine of relationship building opportunities at search.twitter.com. (You’ve read the awesome diet coke story on SEOmoz? And the response?) As a link building professional, you need to get as familiar with Twitter advanced search as you are with Google advanced search. There’s a goldmine of relationship building opportunities on Twitter, and you don’t have to be huge to make it work. Anyone can do this!
Alternatively, you can try an “inside job”. Scour your Facebook friends, LinkedIn Contacts and Twitter followers for useful names and organizations to be introduced to. Names that share the same beliefs you do, then politely ask for the brief introduction. Again, make sure you have a reason, be it an interview, business deal or some way you can help them out.
When was the last time you checked where all your Facebook friends worked (oh, and your non-facebook “real life” friends too)…? I discovered a cousin of mine had ended up at Google. Through various Facebook messages, phone calls and emails I managed to fix a lunch in their London Victoria office with the Head of University Programmes there. Eating deliciously seasoned steak and ice cream whilst talking with folks at Google.
As an SEO, you’re conditioned to spotting all sorts of link building opportunities… now you need focus yourself on relationship building opportunities. Think long haul
You can do this!
…like, if I put a gun to your head and asked you if you had ANY other way of contacting this person…
Then try some of these tricks….
Invariably, you’ve got to initiate the conversation and the relationship. And for that you’ve got to send something physical.
Send a box. Yes, a box. A package in the mail. Spend your link building budget with FedEx. You can ignore emails… You can hang up the phone… You can shred letters… But it’s really, really hard to ignore a box. People simply can’t ignore a mysterious package marked “express delivery” sitting on their desk. *ooooh* shiny package!
So long as they don’t think it’s a bomb (!!), it’s brilliantly effective for getting positive attention. Put something in the box that proves your belief, and don’t ever be afraid to go bold with your budget here. You’re making friends for life, remember? I tested this with Distilled last year, by shipping a 3D-printed model of their logo with messages in the package. Here’s a (bad!) picture of it still in production…
This was produced via a 3D-printer before the final lacquer was added.
The great thing with couriering goods is you know whether or not they’ve received it (tracked delivery for the win!). The big bonus of a box is you get the *WOW!* effect. Naturally, surrounding people will come and have a look for themselves. Suddenly, you’ve sparked a conversation which will only lead to them reading your message with that degree of fascination.
Letters I’ve found to be less effective, since they can quite literally be mistaken for spam and you don’t get the “WOW! Gather Round!” factor of a box. You’ll have to make your letter stand out such that it doesn’t look like a commercial too.
Take a leaf out of direct marketers books and try handwriting your addresses rather than mass-mailing, mass-printed stickers. Try varying the size, colour and shape of your envelopes. And please try my personal favourite – origami envelopes – just make sure you print onto good thick paper!
Don’t mislead your prospects. “Traditional” outreach etiquette that Mike King talks about here still applies. Make sure you indulge in sharing your beliefs – prove your why – and show some enthusiasm for what you do. And since you share something in common, talk about something related, but off-topic to what you’re mentioning.
Heck, you’re an SEO consultant so maybe something to help them out with their marketing. That’s a really easy win to show you care about them, what they do and are kind and human enough to offer help. You care about them, remember?
And of course, always make sure you personalise each method of outreach and give a very, very clear call-to-action with ideally just a yes/no decision needed from them. Something like “if you’re interested in meeting on 1st April at 9am at The Epic Sandwich Shop, drop me an email at … or call me at …”. Do the thinking for them, and people love it.
Once you’ve established a relationship with someone, its kinda rude to use form letters. You don’t form letter your mum, so don’t form letter your link prospects. We live in a world where authenticity rules. It cuts through the noise and clutter. Caring about people and relationships really does build links! So throw out your f-ing form letters and start writing some real messages and building a real relationship.
Nothing… nothing beats a real face-to-face meeting. Meet someone for lunch or a coffee. They’ll relax and you’ll be able to have a casual conversation about whatever. Don’t call it a meeting if you don’t have to.
Why not ask if you can spend some time in their offices or with them actually working? Ask to help them out some day… you share the same beliefs and mission, and you have the rest of your working life to seal these kinds of relationships, don’t you? Besides, it’s fun!
Go out of the way for your new friends. My favourite link building tools aren’t Google Docs or Buzzstream, but train tickets and a telephone. I travel the length of the country, and these days you can still get work done whilst travelling (gotta love midday off-peak first class fares!). Yes, this can be practical too!
This is how I build links (and yes, those trains are supposed to tilt!).
Even better, if you’ve got many link prospects in one location, then run an event and meet them face to face. Spend budget on hosting an awesome party, and your link prospects will never, ever forget you. I think this was one of Tom Critchlow’s tips again, but for $5k (about the budget of a decent infographic project?) you could put on a really, *really* awesome party!!
Keep in touch. Write (short!) emails now and again. Banter over Twitter. Share interesting links. Keep people in mind, like you do your friends.
Remember, your social graph is your linkerati. Keep them happy by writing content they’ll read and love sharing over time. Don’t count on them “just reading it” either… ask them what they thought. Solicit comments from them. Get them involved, in a follow-up or response post or something. How can you provoke regular, positive responses?
The big point to building relationships is the benefits over time. You’re not just shooting for one link like you might in your previously outreach emails, but hundreds over several years to the day you retire… and invitations to countless events. And sales. And referrals, Christmas cards, bottles of wine… you’re not changing the status of a contact in a spreadsheet – you’re making genuine friends!
Seth Godin sums it up…
One of my favourite ways to create intrinsically social pages is to create pages about individual people. It’s egobait, and it works. Write detailed, flattering content about people and they’ll pick it up and be over the moon. They’ll share it, their social graph will see it and share it and you’ll begin to build momentum.
Pssst… you don’t have to target the page around a person. You can still target it around a keyword, but make it about a person. Case studies like “How Barry Learnt Ruby in 4 Weeks” work well! You gain the social shares as well as the keyword focused page. Double-win
It’s slightly more difficult to do with brands, since few brands are treated like people. Make pages about individuals. If you’re targeting a bigger brand, then pick a big name from that brand. You don’t know how a brand might react (there may be protocols to control tweeting etc.) but a person is much more likely to react in the way you want. It’s easier to flatter a human than a brand.
Comb through your keyword lists and work out how you can make a page about a person. This can work with product pages, case studies, blog posts, landing pages, sales pages… pretty much anything
Maybe you can’t be bothered to commit to such long term results. Maybe you’ve got to deliver by tomorrow to get your next paycheck, or renew your SEO contract or win budget or whatever…?
Or maybe it just sounds too much like hard work…?
Maybe, just maybe you’re one of those guys who still uses comment spam, article spinning and other grey or “black hat” tactics day to day that make Rand sad. And maybe they even work! That’s kinda cool, right? Covertly breaking the system?
I’ll tell you what’s cool. Being undisputed king of a SERP for years and years to come. Links are just one part of the signal, the signal of a relationship and approval. Google’s algorithm is changing and Google’s algorithm is all around us. Making friends is such a central part of what we SEOs do (and arguably, the most fun part!), but we don’t pay nearly enough attention to it.
You’ve got to have the relationships around you that will last for years and years on end. The internet is still incredibly young (Google’s just hitting puberty). And don’t worry… you’ve got plenty of money to do this, because your marketing budget stretches for many years to come, as will your future relationships.
How long is your endgame? You’ve got to start thinking how you can build a system that build links. If you want to dominate in 5, 10, 20 years time then you need to set out the signals now.
You’ve got to start thinking long haul. If you’re not “in bed”, so to speak, with all folks in your industry, someone else is going to take your cake and eat it. You know your industry, so imagine your fiercest competitors cosying up with key industry figures over some joint venture, collaborative linkbait or something else.
The rise of all these social networks isn’t the point. The point is you can now connect easier with these tools to people who share your why and your beliefs. You can build and maintain these incredible relationships that will make you win in the long run. Aim for where the game is going to be, not where the game is now.
This is how I build links, get jobs and make sales. These tactics and strategies will only become more effective over time, not less. Use them to chase your dream links…
…then let me know how it goes in the comments.
Thanks for reading!
February 7th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Public relations is just one of those things.
It’s something that every company knows they should do, but only see two ways of making it happen — hire an expensive PR firm or cross their fingers and hope for the best. The latter is, well, not really much of a PR strategy. There is a third option, however.
I’ve written in the past about how to bootstrap your PR efforts, but never really dug into the nitty gritty. It’s a time intensive process, but if you’re up for the challenge, getting coverage in some of the top outlets in the world is possible, and even likely. I’ve tried many methods, failed many times, and ultimately boiled it down to this process.
Here it is, Moz family.
The first step is what I like to call the mirror check, something that gets glossed over far too often. You need to put yourself in the mind of a writer. People don’t want to read shit stories, and writers don’t want to write them; it’s a simple relationship. Before you dig into the rest of the process, make sure you’ve got a story that you’d be interested in reading. Honestly. If you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say that you would love to read what you’re pitching, hold off.
Save your time, and more importantly, everyone else’s.
Once you’ve got a solid story, it’s time to start building your list of publications. I’ve found it helpful to break it into larger categories, such as tech blogs, mainstream media, local press, niché publications and so on. That’ll give you a good outline to begin digging into the specific publications you’re looking to reach out to.
It’s important to note that PR isn’t a numbers game, as many think. It’s a quality and relevance game, not a shotgun spray. To determine relevance, you really need to engulf yourself in the content of the publication — read at least 5 articles. Without reading the content, you aren’t able to truly understand the writing style and typical news they cover. Once you’ve done this, add only the publications that would be interested in your story, and omit those that wouldn’t. It’ll save you time when we get to the next step.
This is so important that it deserves its own step. Again, it’s all about relevance, even more so when you’re looking for the right person to pitch your story to. What’s the sweet spot for one writer, may be completely irrelevant to another. If you pitch the wrong one, well, you blew your shot. You’ve got to dig deep on this step. Here’s the info that my list usually contains:
The first three fields are fairly self explanatory, then we get into the meat of it. The “relevance point” refers to the overlap with the writer’s past work. A good way of finding the right person to pitch your story to, is to go to the publication and search for relevant content.
For example, if I’m looking pitch an article on company culture, the best way to find the right person is to search the publication for the term “Company Culture”. Crazy, I know. This will bring up a great list of past content that you can dig through to find the writer that normally covers the type of story you’re pitching.
Once you’ve got the right person, the real investigative work starts happening. Depending on the publication, when you click the author’s name, you’re usually taken to a page with their contact info, bio, social profiles and the like. If you’re not as lucky, you’ll have to resort to a good ol’ Google search (or Bing search to find what you’re looking for.
For each author, I like to make sure I’ve got at least their Twitter handle, Linkedin profile, Facebook profile and personal site (if they have one). What this allows you to do, is not only track down an email address in most cases, but it also allows you to gain a good understanding of their personality. Make note of things they like, what they’ve done recently, where they’re located — it’s all publicly available, and goes a long way in making you stand out. Like anyone else, writers appreciate when you take the time to do it right. Drop these hints of deep research in your pitch.
Finally, if you aren’t able to track down their email address, use tools like Rapportive to help in guessing the right contact address. If it clicks and data appears, you’ve got the right email address.
A lot of people mess up on the pitch, the eventual email that gets sent off. They get wordy, dance around the purpose of the email, attach a press release and ultimately fail miserably. Like this kid. The pitch needs to show relevance, be compelling and maintain brevity.
To provide an example, here’s a pitch that I’ve used in the past:
Or, you could make it rain. Whichever you prefer.
This is the culmination of all the work you’ve put in. Obviously, you can’t always time your news in the case of product launches and breaking news, but I’ve found that Sunday evening is a great time to put it out there. Most folks are lazy, and they aren’t willing to put in the time on a Sunday, this leaves a nice window for your pitch and a Monday release date in most cases. It’s not a necessity, but it may give you the best odds.
Also, this sounds obvious, but make sure you’re ready for responses to your pitch. If the writer is interested, you’ll hear back and they’ll want more info. Respect their time and get back to them as soon as you can.
The rest is out of your hands.
Before we wrap this up, I want to go over some general don’ts with PR. By no means is this list comprehensive, but it’ll steer you away from the big screw-ups.
Executing on a PR push is time intensive, and demanding of finesse. It’s why PR firms demand upwards of $15,000/month, with no guarantee on output. I’m not a public relations pro. By no means is this the end all be all of PR processes, but it’s what I’ve found to be successful in landing press — earning coverage in Wired, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Mashable and many more. That said, what worked for me, may not work for all.
As with everything in tech, iterate, iterate, iterate.
If you run across any specific questions as you’re working through it, feel free to drop them in the comments or just shoot me a line, I’m always happy to help.
February 7th, 2012 @ // No Comments
If you’re reading this blog, congratulations! You are a customer of SEOmoz. I’ve probably personally spoken to at least a few of you, and provided help and support to many more of you. Have you ever wondered how SEOmoz supports 15,000 PRO members and over 250,000 free members and blog readers? After all, Roger can’t personally answer every email we receive here. He’s not Santa Claus! Instead, the six mozzers that make up the Help Team answer all of the emails, phone calls, and chat requests we get every day. I want to tell you a little bit more about them and give you a look at the way we’ve built the SEOmoz support channels to meet our overall goal: to provide the best customer service on the planet. It’s a hard goal to reach, but I can’t think of any more worthwhile endeavor.
Crissy is old school! She came to SEOmoz in the spring of 2010. Back then, the Help Team was just Sarah Bird (our COO) and Crissy, and I joined soon after. She loves the fact that she’s been able to watch our team and SEOmoz grow since she started. Things are always changing with our site and tools, and as she says, it keeps us on our toes! Her favorite part of working at SEOmoz is the balance between fun and productivity that makes our team and company such an amazing place to work. Crissy spends her time helping users with their tool and billing questions, planning kick-ass Help Team outings (we made terrariums together last month), and helping the Marketing Ops teams keep track of our weekly membership reporting.
When she’s not in the office, Crissy likes to take her son Sam on adventures around Seattle. She likes to sew up a storm, particularly to make clothes for her toddler (instant gratification, according to her). In the “warmer” Seattle months she rides her bicycle, named “Tom Selleck,” to work and back.
Megan’s been a help teamster for a little over a year now and loves connecting with our users. With several years of experience in customer service, she really strives to make every interaction with SEOmoz users a positive one. Besides responding to emails, calls, and chats, Megan plans and organizes our weekly software demos and investigates billing issues to keep any possible fraudsters at bay. She’s also been known to do some writing, whether it be on the SEOmoz blog or in product messages throughout the site.
When not at the MozPlex, Megan likes to watch The Daily Show and Battlestar Galactica with her cat, Lily, and her awesomely-cool-fun-amazing neighbor across the hall, me! (Those are her words of course.) She also enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on (lately, it’s been The Hunger Games series) and even started a library for the office. On weekends, she hangs out with friends (including lots of fellow Mozzers), goes dancing to anything from funk soul to 90′s hip hop, and cooks as much as possible.
Kenny joined up last year and is one of our few Washington natives! He grew up in a small, sleepy Northwestern town, thus is afraid of the sun. He compensates for a lack of natural energy sources by drinking copious amounts of black coffee. Kenny spends most of his time pursuing the TAGFEE dream by diagnosing tough technical issues, getting his hands dirty with a little web design, and filming each week’s Whiteboard Friday.
He never wanders off too far away from his MacBook and for this reason alone his girlfriend mistakenly thinks he loves it more than her. It’s probably because most of his spare time is spent designing websites or leaning about some fantastic new technology on the internet. He also loves the Daily Show, puppies, pizza, and tacos.
Nick joined our team in September last year and got up to speed lickety-split! Like the rest of our team mates, he answers customer emails, phone calls, and live chat questions. Nick has also spear-headed our new help documentation project that gives customers the resources learn anything about SEOmoz’s tool set. This effort makes our company more scalable by answering customers’ questions before they call, write, or chat with us, which gives them more instant gratification, as well. Needless to say, he spends a lot of his time creating screencasts and typing up FAQs. Nick has a passion for educating and helping others, so is constantly looking for new resources to show SEOmoz’s customers.
Nick enjoys film, video games, reading, and cooking. He is an avid reader of anything from Eastern Philosophy to some of the nerdiest sci-fi/fantasy novels ever written. When not at work, Nick is usually spending time with his wife and partner in crime, Becky. On most nights, they cook new recipes together, play an unhealthy amount of Left 4 Dead 2 or Skyrim, and watch movies. On the weekends, Nick and Becky explore Washington and go to retro theaters. Nick is also involved in independent film-making and has produced, written, and directed a feature film and many shorts. On the sci-fi geek front, Nick has a huge collection of memorabilia from the Alien(s) films. He also has a cat named Ash after Bruce Campbell’s character in the Evil Dead series. Of course, this means Nick calls her Evil Ash when she is bad.
Chiaryn is the newest addition to the team, having been here for about two months. Don’t let that fool you though: she’s caught up real quick-like! She’s been doing customer service for a long time and is working on learning new things about SEO every day. What better place to learn, eh?
When she’s not in the office, she likes to make art and take photographs. She’s been working on a sketchbook that will be going on a national tour. She also likes to take trips around the beautiful Seattle waterfront with her camera. When she can, she tries to take candid portraits. Check out some of her artwork on her Art House Co-Op page. She’s also an avid movie fan, with a particular love of horror movies, and reads as much as possible. In her words, she’ll gobble up pretty much any nonfiction book you put in front of her. That’s why we call her Turkey Miranda! Just kidding – that’s not why we call her that.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably figured out that this is me! I started at SEOmoz in the summer of 2010 and am loving every minute of being here. A couple months ago I became the manager of the Help Team, which means I do what I can to support the lovely members of our team, and provide our customers with the best service on the planet. It’s a tough goal – we have very discerning customers – but a goal I think we can eventually fulfill. Some background: I studied sociology and cognitive science at UC San Diego, but starting doing SEO after graduating. Turns out that ranking for attorneys in San Diego is tough work! I left San Diego early 2010 for Seattle, and eventually found my way at SEOmoz.
Besides working at a place I love, I enjoy reading (currently Steve Jobs), watching great shows (currently my third run of Deadwood), and seeing my favorite bands in Seattle’s historical music venues (this month: Junip, Nada Surf, and The Asteroids Galaxy Tour). I also enjoy trying out vegan recipes with my girlfriend, Holly Haymaker, who has the coolest name in the world and a whimsical interactive e-cards site, to boot!
You know how, sometimes, you have a question about our site and tools? Or about your account or payment? We’re the people you call, email, live chat, and post to our help forums for. Unlike huge companies with call centers and many tiers of support and different people doing phones and chats, though, everyone on our team does everything. It’s a great way to keep everyone fully informed about site issues and keep our support fresh and agile. That’s not all we do, though! Let me show you all of the ways we keep our customers happy:
When you send an email to email@example.com, it gets forwarded to our ticketing system. We use ZenDesk, the same help desk software used by companies like Groupon and Box.com. ZenDesk allows us to manage customer emails, assign them to specific people, and easily share them with engineering and product so we can get answers to questions quickly! This is important because we receive over 2,000 emails a month: way too many to respond to from a single email address effectively.
How Does It Work?
When we receive an email, the sender gets an email back with a ticket number. As you see, it gets added to our queue of tickets to reply to. We try to answer 80% of tickets within 8 hours, but if it’s a situation where someone has a billing problem or can’t access their account (lost password, etc.), we try to answer even faster than that. Our goal is for each member of the Help Team to answer 20 tickets per day. If we don’t have the knowledge to answer a question, we’ll send the ticket to our engineers and product managers to get an answer. If it’s a bug, we let the customer know and open a bug fix with our Triage team. They assign the bug to an engineer, who fixes it and lets them know. Triage sends it back to us when it’s fixed, and we email the customer and close the ticket.
When we close a ticket, we send a one-question survey through SurveyMonkey asking how happy we made a customer with our customer service. We try to make 90% of our customers happy, and 30% of our customers delighted. Sometimes, though, we fail to satisfy a customer. When this happens, we ask for the customer’s email address and ticket number so we can get in touch and make it right. I’ve found that when a customer has had a bad experience, reaching out to them to make it right almost always turns the situation around.
We get a relatively small amount of calls at SEOmoz: about 100 to 150 a week. Makes sense, as most SEOs do their research online. =) We don’t have a sales team and don’t do phone marketing, so the only employees that really have phones here are in Operations or the Help Team. We get a lot of calls from potential customers asking about what we do, though we do get a few from PRO members, too. Here’s a chart with our phone stats for last week:
How Does it Work?
When a person calls in to SEOmoz, they usually start out talking to Hillari, our fantastic office manager. She makes sure they’re not a spambot and, when they’re a lovely customer, transfers them to the Help Team pool. The first available person picks it up and starts helping! Pretty straightforward process, as you telephone users know. After the call is over, we try to create a ticket and follow up with the customer to make sure they had all their questions answered. If it’s an SEO question, we refer them to the QA or to our list of recommended SEO consultants.
When potential customers are browsing our software sales pages, they often have questions they want answered now. Same thing goes for existing customers with questions about a payment or their account status: these are the kinds of questions people want to know the answers to quickly. Live Chat comes to the rescue! Instead of requiring a customer to call or send in an email, we usually keep someone logged into Live Chat throughout the day so customers can get help immediately. This leads to happier customers and cuts down on our ticket and phone levels. We use the awesome chat widget SnapEngage, and installed it to a few choice pages.
How Does it Work?
Kenny coordinated with SnapEngage to create a custom view of the widget. When you click “Chat Now,” it pops up a dialog box that displays three FAQs, and has a field for the email address of the customer and the question they have. When they’ve typed those in, all they have to do is click “Message” to open a ticket, or “Live Chat” to start talking! Interesting point: we didn’t always have those three FAQs. Adding them reduced chats about these topics about 90%. Yay for preemptive answers!
After we finish chatting with a customer, the chat transcript is automatically added to ZenDesk as a ticket, where we can save it for future review and for long-term tracking. We can also follow up with a customer there. If we’re offline, or if a customer chooses the “Message” option instead of the “Live Chat” option, it creates a ticket from the get-go instead.
We can also track the types of computers and browsers people are using when they chat with us, which helps us diagnose the issue faster and get an idea of what our average customer needing immediate support looks like. The chart to the left is a look at last month’s chatters.
We maintain both our customer service and API forums through the SEOmoz help desk. We’ve also started adding all of our tool documentation, videos, and walkthroughs here to make them all available in the same place. This makes our Help Desk a one-stop shop for looking at frequently asked questions, checking out known issues with the site or tools, and just generally getting more knowledgeable about how to use a PRO subscription to its fullest. It’s also where we ask customers to submit feature requests.
How Does it Work?
When a customer has a question, they can go to our Help Desk and do a search for the answer, or browse existing questions and documentation. Many of the forums are straight-up questions and answers, but a lot of them are longer-form pages that are part of our documentation project. We want to document the bejewels out of our tools! Yes, there will always be questions from customers, but the more information you can put in their hands early on, the more happy they’ll be, and the more scalable our service becomes.
One cool feature: the Feature Request Forum has a voting system so customers can vote on the features they want to see most. Our product team reviews this feedback to get an idea of what to prioritize and what to put further down the roadmap. It’s a great way to get customers more involved in SEOmoz’s future!
We do a bunch of other stuff to help our customers, and it’s hard to get it all down in words! We give weekly software demos to help new customers get the most out of PRO,
represent at MozCations,
give tours of the MozPlex and help out at MozCon,
and bake plenty of cookies (you gotta help your fellow mozzers out, too!):
All in all, it’s a wonderful life. SEOmoz has the best customers around, and there’s no other place I’d rather be. I’d love to share more with you and hear your stories about great customer service, as well as get feedback on what you’d love to see more of in the customer service biznez. Please feel free to write me in the comments, shoot me an email, or tweet me at @aaron_wheeler. See you around the site!
February 7th, 2012 @ // No Comments
In December, we rolled out branded keyword rules and metrics to campaigns to help you segment your branded traffic. Now, we’re excited to introduce a companion feature to make your keyword research easier: Find New Keywords. With this feature, you can view keywords sending you organic search traffic, filter on your brand rules, and determine if you want to track them in your campaign.
You’ll discover the Find New Keywords feature in a tab under your Manage Keywords section. (This feature requires that you connect your campaign to Google Analytics, so if you’re not connected to GA, you’ll find instructions on how to do this on the Find New Keywords tab.)
But wait, where did the Manage Brand Rules page go?! We’ve moved your brand rules page into a tab under Manage Keywords, as well, so you can easily move among these sections as you manage your keywords.
1. View the top 200 keywords sending you traffic that you’re not currently tracking.
Why stop at 200? We want to make it easier for you to add the keywords that may be most interesting to track because they are branded terms or common words heavily associated by searchers with your site. After that, you can go straight to GA to manually grab more terms. If we see high demand for showing more keywords, we’ll consider showing more terms in the future (so let us know what you think!).
2. Decide which keywords are candidates for tracking.
We show you a number of factors:
3. Add keywords of interest to your managed keywords list.
With some information in hand about the keyword’s relationship to your brand, traffic, difficulty, and SERP analysis details, you’re on your way to finding some keywords of interest to track.
One thing to note: If you are tracking all 200 (which we don’t necessarily recommend–please make your choices carefully), you’ll see a message telling you to check later for new keywords that have moved up the list.
We’d love to know what you think of the feature, so let us know! Leave a comment right here, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or share a feature suggestion in our feature request forum. Happy keyword finding!
February 7th, 2012 @ // No Comments
In the world of link building, getting an authority link to your site/blog has been one of the most important aspects of growing your blog. Back in 2009 Page Level Link Metrics and Domain Level Authority Features accounted for over 46% of your pages own authority:
In 2011, that percentage has dropped, but only by 4% [42.58%], suggesting that link building will continue to be a critical factor to your blog/website’s success.
But we pretty much know that not just any link will do. The better the site the link is coming from, the better the link.
That’s why your link-building campaigns need to be built around attracting authority links. But how do you do that? And what exactly is an authority link? Let me explain.
Absolute and relative authority links explained
There are two types of authorities. There are the absolute authority sites like Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and Google’s blog. These sites are also labeled “informational” authorities versus navigational authorities like DMOZ.
On the other hand, you also have relative authority sites. These are sites run by bloggers or webmasters that are authorities in a niche. Bloggers like Robert Scoble, Dooce or Mashable are authorities in their markets. While the link juice they’ll give you if they link to you is not as high as what an absolute authority site could give you…they are definitely worth attracting.
But how do you actually get a link from these sites? Here are the ten golden rules to attracting authority links.
Rule 1: Write content that attracts Editorial In-content Links
The most fundamental tactic of attracting authority links is to write content that is worth a link. What does this content look like?
Building up a blog/site with this kind of content will take time, so you may not pick up a natural authority link out of the gate. Better yet, once you have a solid archive of content, approach these authority sites and ask for a link. Give them a good reason, which could be one of the following:
Rule 2: Fix other people’s broken links
Links die all the time. People shut down website or pull web pages. When these documents or sites vanish all the links pointing to them are dead.
For example, if you work through a web page by a publisher who links out a lot and the page is a few years old, you are bound to find at least one or two dead links on that page. Work through the entire site and you could find dozens.
Mashable is a good example of a site that links out a lot and will probably have a lot of dead links on older pages since they tend to report on startups that don’t always last.
You can easily solve this in 2 ways:
Drop link into sub form:
Choose your options:
Click “done” and then wait 644.47 seconds:
You can then work your way through the status report:
From that report you can build a list of dead links, the pages that need to replaced and the authors you can approach if it is a multi-author site like Mashable.
Rule 3: Create a desirable image library
If you have high-quality images on our site, you can use those images as an incentive to get people to link to you. Imagine you have a gallery of large, high-resolution pictures…well, then offer a contact form that allows a person to grab the file and linking code right there on the page.
You don’t have to go all out like a photl.com:
The last site specialize in photos, for you though being a content publisher looking for ranking juice, you could build a sub-domain devoted to photos like these.
Here’s what you have to do, though.
And to help you benefit fully from this tactic, keep this in mind when building a library of images:
Rule 4: Offer to write a column or do a guest post
Giving a publisher practical, highly-researched content as a guest post is a great way to get links to your site from him or her.
Keep in mind this tactic typically be easier to pull off for those relative authority content sites than absolute authority sites due to their blogging policy. But if you have a guest posting strategy that involves focusing on building links, traffic and exposure via guest posting on a select few relative authority sites, you’ll eventually have an arsenal of content that you can pitch to the absolute authority sites.
Some authority sites like Open Forum or Huffington Post have so much need for content that you can usually get a post on there. But you typically still have to provide a portfolio of posts so they can understand what level of writing you are at and not just someone off the street.
Here are some resource to help you write, submit and get published guest posts:
Rule 5: Go to where your target audience hangs out
As bloggers and people of the internet we often forget about all of the face-to-face connections that can provide us with valuable links from relative or absolute authority site publishers.
For example, travel to conferences and hook up with some of the people you want to influence and convince to link to your site. Don’t be a pest to these people, but hang out, be cool to them, and then leave them alone for the rest of the events. You then need to go to the after-event event at the bar. This is where you can make things happen by simply buying them a drink or two.
If you really want to take it to another level, offer to take them out for dinner and pick up the check. During that dinner suggest they link to you in some purposeful way…perhaps you offer to create an infographics or a beginner’s guide.
But even if you don’t get some agreement like that you can say as you grab the check, “No, let me get this. You give me a link or something.”
That way the person thinks, “A $50 dinner for a link? You got it.”
Rule 6: Fill gaps in content
As I mentioned above, when you are talking to content publishers, ask them what content they are missing…and offer to create it for them. It could be a video interview of Guy Kawaski or a periodic table of the fundamentals of link building. It could be an idea they’ve had for an ebook.
Whatever it is, offer to create it for them.
Once you create the content you will get the credit as a link back to your site. Make sure you offer content that you can create professionally and will attract people who are in your target audience. Creating a weight-loss calculator for a site when you are in real estate will drive traffic to your site…but it will be the wrong traffic. You might as well done nothing.
Rule 7: Contact big media at the right time
For those sites who are less tied to a content schedule, like a Drudge Report, you will not need to know when they publish their links because they do it pretty much as the story breaks.
Still, having some kind of bead on when that time is will improve your chances. Here’s a guideline to follow:
And even if you do get coverage…it won’t be a lot and it probably won’t be a link. Late content entries are typically reduced to the show that doesn’t impact SEO at all.
8. Approach government or education sites
A sure sign of an authority site is a .edu or .gov. This could be a link from a college like Harvard or Stanford or a link from the White House or Usability.gov. Getting those links are not always easy.
One example is to look for ways you can register accounts with these institutions. For example, Harvard has The Harvard H20 Playlist Project. It’s simply a series of links to books, articles or content that hopes to spark content.
Simply create a playlist and add a link to a useful post inside your site.
Creating meaningful, researched content or break an interesting story and these sites might naturally attract these sites might link to you. Examples of content that you could write that might actually grab their attention include:
The kind of content you could create that would attract a government link could be:
In some cases you will just have to approach these institutions. When you do, you are more likely to get an answer however, and a positive one at that, if you inspect their site, identify the content gaps and then offer to fill them.
Again, it’s going to be important that you have something to show that you can pull off the content professionally, so don’t try this tactic until you have a good catalog of posts in your archives.
9. Buy links without penalty
It’s no secret that buying links violates Google’s policy and the penalty can be very stiff. So you may be wonder why I’m suggesting you buy links.
There are ways to buy links that will not be a violation of Google’s policy. Here are two:
As you can see these examples are based on an exchange of value between two people and their websites that can relate to the relevancy of content…so it’s an ethical way of buying links.
Rule 10: Know the difference between a good and a bad site
Finally, one of the most fundamental rules to link building is knowing the difference between a good website and a bad one. This might sound obvious but it’s sometimes easy to get tricked into asking a site that looks like an authority but is in reality spammy.
What are the elements that determine if a website is a bad one? Here are five ways:
Trust me when I say that you will not be wasting your time if you invest it in attracting authority links to your website or blog. Remember: nearly half of what determines the rank of your site is based upon the types of links driving to your site. Hopefully this guide has given you the tips and the tools necessary to help you succeed.