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Whitehat SEO Techniques in 2013: Learning From Blackhat SEO

The phrases “white hat” and “black hat” are loaded guns, and we only use them because they’re so ubiquitous. The truth is, when you tell yourself you are a “white hat,” you can end up fooling yourself into thinking that your strategy will always work, and Google will never turn it back on you. Worse still, you can close your mind off to insights that dramatically improve business results.

Don’t misunderstand us. Ethics are crucial. If you don’t already understand why it’s absolutely vital for SEO to be crystal clear and ethical in the years going forward, take a look at what we wrote over at Search Engine Journal. (Hint: the algorithm is only a very small part of why ethics matter.)

But there’s a difference between ethics and restrictive labels, and if you aren’t learning anything from “black hats,” you’re probably missing some key insights, like these:

1. Testing is Always Better than Blind Faith

Before you head straight to the comment section and write a rage-fueled rant, let me point out the fact that these are generalized statements. They don’t apply to every single “white hat” or “black hat” out there. But here we go:

White hats are less likely to test things than black hats.

This is an unfortunate truth about our industry. While there are plenty of excellent number crunchers on the “inbound” side of SEO, like, say, Dr. Pete, your average white hat SEO is less likely to put things to the test than your average black hat SEO. There are a few reasons for this:

    • Black hats can test some theories much faster than white hats, because they can use automated software and create controlled experiments that aren’t practical with white hat tactics
    • A large portion of white hats are “reformed” black hats who couldn’t stomach tests that kept getting them penalized, and have decided to simply follow the advice of industry experts instead
  • Some confuse white hat SEO for doing exactly what Google advises, and thus don’t bother testing anything

Again, I’m not saying these statements are true for all, or even most, white hat SEOs. I’m simply saying that more white hats are guilty of this particular offense than black hats.

Things don’t have to be this way.

As we’ve said several times, it’s a bit ironic to put the word “optimizer” in your title if you aren’t doing any actual testing for optimization. Even the worst conversion rate optimizers understand this. It’s strange how few SEOs (on either side of the fence) actually test their pet theories about the algorithm, or run the numbers to see how well their cherished tactics and strategies are playing out.

We recently wrote an in depth guide for KISSmetrics on SEO testing. Here are a few of the takeaways from that post:

    • You can test quirks of the algorithm by tweaking single things and measuring how they influence traffic
    • You can put SEO strategies to the test on “real world” sites by running two different content strategies at the same time, and measuring which content group picks up the most lifetime value (note that lifetime value does not equal number of visits, subscribers, etc.)
    • You can use traditional split testing to discover which kinds of pages are most likely to pick up natural links, or links from outreach

We are living in the age of big data. There’s just no excuse to leave money on the table by relying on assumptions instead of hard facts. Intuition is crucial, but it’s most useful when you are also putting it to the test.

2. It’s Okay to Spend Money to Make Money

As we all know, black hat SEOs have no qualms spending money to make money. They will buy links, pay for inclusion in networks, pay for automated link-building tools, buy multiple IP hosting, and buy sites to set up their own private blog networks.

As all white hat SEOs already know, these tactics aren’t worth investing in if you care about long term results. For the black hats who know how to do it, these tactics can make a quick buck, but they are very far removed from the brand building that legitimate businesses need to survive. Sites that rank using these kinds of tactics are short-lived at best, and eventually get struck down by algorithm updates, manual reviews, or user spam reports.

So, what can we possibly learn from black hats on this issue?

It’s a basic lesson that marketers in every other field understand quite well: it’s okay to pay for results. Marketers buy ad space on television networks, they pay per click, they hire talent, and they invest. And there certainly are white hat SEOs who understand just how incredible results can be when you have money to invest.

Unfortunately, the whole “don’t buy links” mentality has really hurt our ability to think of SEO as a “put money in and get money out” field of marketing.

We can even learn direct lessons from some of these black hat tactics:

    • Buying links – While we can’t straight up buy links or even offer “free products and services” in exchange for links, it’s perfectly fine to hire talent from people with influence on the web. The over-emphasis on guest posts and link-begging has led some of us to believe that you just can’t offer money to people when you’re trying to establish an online presence. That’s a terrible way of looking at things. When you hire microcelebrities, influential bloggers, well-known photographers, and so on, you will attract traffic, and you will earn links. You just need to be willing to hire people who always earn natural links, no matter what they do. It’s that simple. Not to mention the fact that buying no-follow links for the referral traffic is perfectly fine, and seriously underrated.
    • Private blog networks – While setting up a private link network of sites that “pretend” not to be associated with you is a terrible idea if you care about a long-term online presence, we can take a page from the basic approach. It’s perfectly legitimate to buy blogs, redirect them to folders or subdomains on your site, and when possible, hire the blogger. This allows you to buy not just a link profile, but mindshare. Conglomerates understand the value of acquisitions. Why do so few SEOs?
    • Pay for inclusion in networks – Joining a link network, especially a publicly advertised one, is an extremely bad idea for brands. But there’s nothing ethically wrong with buying visibility on networks. Advertorials (not to mention advertisements) are an incredible way to increase exposure, when used properly. What many people don’t realize is that you can actually earn links by buying ads. Traffic turns into links, and if the content is better, it turns into more, higher quality links. That’s how Google works outside of the most competitive niches, and it’s a fact that you can use to build entirely natural links with ad exposure.
    • Pay for tools – While fully automated link building tools are an awful idea, tools like Followerwonk can make link building outreach much more effective and efficient. Reporting tools like AdvancedWebRanking make it easier to track and learn from your campaigns, and tools like KISSmetrics can teach us about our individual customer’s behavior. It’s very difficult to do any real optimization without tools in your arsenal.

SEO is business. We need to speak the language of ROI, and think about more innovative and effective ways to spend money, if we wish to be taken seriously.

3. It’s Worth Taking Advantage of What Works Today

White hat SEOs are playing the long game. They’re interested in strategies that will continue to work for years and years, because they don’t want to throw their clients under the bus, and lose their reputation virtually overnight. This is the only smart way to run an SEO agency.

And yet, it’s clear that some black hats can make a lot of money very quickly by taking advantage of loopholes in the algorithm. Sites can rank for ridiculously competitive terms like “car insurance” in 3 days using links from hacked websites. They can rank for terms with 40k monthly visits in 4 days using private link networks.

And let’s all face facts: everybody wants to make money now, not later. So is there something we can learn from the cheaters?

Long term strategy is crucial, but it shouldn’t exist in isolation.

When there’s an opportunity to make money today, you should take advantage of it, as long as it doesn’t compromise the future of your brand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking advantage of the way Google’s algorithm works today, as long as you can justify what you are doing as legitimate marketing, and as long as you are investing the revenue in strategies that will continue to work for the long haul.

Conclusion

While it can be useful for SEO agencies to distance themselves from spammers, it can also become dangerous if it limits your thinking. Ethics are crucial for the success of your business, but they shouldn’t be used as an excuse to plug your ears and cover your eyes. Open minds are a must if you want to compete in this growing market.

What other lessons can we learn from the seedy underbelly of SEO?

Building Links in 2013: Strategies & Tactics

On average, Google employs 200 points of criteria to determine website rankings. These discernible categories are segmented by popularity, relevancy and content.  As implied in the name, “popularity” is perhaps the most crucial driving force for higher rankings.  How does one achieve a recognizable website? With a little help from  effective, linkbuilding strategies.

Link building is an-ever changing discipline that must be executed correctly in order to produce  advantageous results.  What exactly is linkbuilding, you may ask? Let’s get down to brass tacks!

The objective of linkbuilding is pretty straightforward: place high-quality website links across the web pointed to your site.  The more quality websites you acquire placements from, the better your website can rank.  Seems easy enough, right? Ah, if only it were so simple!

Many people confuse “link bait” with “link building,” and there in itself lies the first problem. Link-building strategies are endeavors you personally undertake (ie. the cause-and-effect falls on your shoulders), whereas link bait is intended to go viral upon conception as a result of high share volumes.

Similar to fishing, you “bait” some amazing content to the masses and wait to reel ‘em in. The problem with this technique? Unless you’ve hired professional SEO strategists who can ensure positive ROIs, you’re likely to be waiting on that bite for a long time. You’re better off taking the plunge and implementing your own linkbuilding strategies, rather than sitting back and waiting for a catch.  It’s like that old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime” (but with a little more marketing jargon).

Anyway – enough about linkbait; now onto strategy building!

Link strategy is essential when blueprinting your short and long-term goals.  You first must determine what links you’re capable of creating in moderate-to-high volumes. That’s the whole point of linkbuilding strategies: driving as much traffic to your site via organic linking methods. Let’s take a look at some of them!

Link Building for High Visibility

Consider taking advantage of trending pages that generate millions of visitors each month. For a small investment, buying links from such notable websites can optimize your linkprofile with natural, nofollow links (rel=’nofollow’). While these nofollow links don’t pass pagerank to your site, they do serve as Google-friendly, natural sources.  All-followed links, even from reputable sources, can raise a red flag if misconstrued by Penguin 2.0 algorithms.

In order to proceed with this strategy, the following measures should be taken:

1. page placement (ie. location of link)
2. determining style/format of chosen link (ie. opting for image vs. widget)
3. assessing your angle (ie. consumer-appeal vs. brand name insert)
4. inventory placement (homepage link vs. deep content link)
5. cost-awareness (ie. knowing your price limit)
6. link disclosure (ie. acknowledging third-party sources )

This method calls for some patience, along with strategic planning. Pursue your networking options and employ the expertise of ad brokers and associates.

Don’t get discouraged if Google’s linking limitations pose some obstacles every now and then. There is still industry growth potential; you just have to source out your own specific medium.

Link Building for Moderate Visibility

Guest posting has emerged in recent years as an effective way to increase page rankings.  A successful guest post is one that produces valuable content for the hosting blog site(s). The following are key steps to consider when executing a search-free, link traffic endeavor:

1. frequency of contribution(s)
2. depth and structure of shared information
3. the contribution benefits of your content
4. external promotion features

Your mission is to obtain consistent visitors for each site you contribute content to, so it’s important to produce quality content to pique visitor interest. Moderate site-traffic should see an influx of 10,000+ monthly visitors. While this seems like a high number, creative, optimal content can easily pull those figures. If you are unable to appease that volume, you may be marketing insufficient content that does not appeal to visitors.

Link Building for Social Media

Even though Lady Gaga reigns the Twitter realm with her multi-million (plus) fan base, the average Joe requires a bit more strategy than a stage name and arena of adoring fans (hate to be the bearer of bad news)!

Your social media audience will increase as you dabble in the networking process; friending, accepting and/or following a target niche, or individuals with similar industry interests. Some factors to keep in mind when executing this endeavor:

1. the positive outreach support you foster vs. the generic approach of others
2. your active participation within social media communities vs. standard, link publishing spiels
3. regular guest interaction vs. communicative indifference

In this situation, your goal is to ‘persuade’ without ‘pushing’ You want to convey the right amount of enthusiasm/chutzpah, but you should also avoid overly-aggressive, networking tactics that are likely to work against you. Ultimately, you want visitors to click on your links because of legitimate interest in your services/specific niche, so be socially-forthright instead of hard-selling.

Link Building for Mobile Apps/Mobile-Friendly Devices

This strategy works best for those capable of creating/marketing an engaging app that drives mobile traffic to your website. Consider the app as your very own publishing medium that showcases the benefits of your site.

If creating your own app is not a possible option, try creating a mobile-friendly website that supports smartphone browsers with easy navigation. Factors to consider for this endeavor are:

  • extended platform/device usability
  • app promotion efforts/appeal to target audience
  • work/effort needed to publish + maintain app and/or mobile site
  • designing a CTA link that corresponds with mobile presentation

 

SEO Linkbuilding: A Dying Industry?

Contrary to what you’ve heard, there are still plenty of search-influenced methods to tap into. Linkbuilding is not a “dying” industry, so much as it is “evolving” with the times.

Like any SEO venture, there are certain risks associated with linkbuilding. The launch of analytical, algorithmic tools like Google’s Penguin 2.0 (used to weed out spammers) have posed a problem for unnatural linkprofiles that are often perceived as manipulative link tactics.

The consequences of these anchored, SEO tactics are severe enough to sway some marketing agencies from link building strategies. The following are just some of the SEO tactics that have emerged on the market in recent years as “questionable” strategies:

  • manipulating the anchor text of links
  • mass, infographic distribution for link bait
  • vendor/tradeshow promotions aka. “giving away swag”
  • journalists who use “Help A Reporter Out” service to gather immediate feedback

While some webmasters are comfortable with link spam, Google algorithms are certainly not. The anticipated launch of Penguin 2.0 is sure to tighten the reigns around anchored, SEO strategies. As many spamming tactics violate Google policies, algorithmic interception is likely to occur; tarnishing your site visibility, along with any number of associated penalties.

Regardless of some of the current hesitancies surrounding linkbuilding strategies, correctly-executed links are still capable of influencing search rankings…without detriment. Though it may seem like the entire Google conglomerate have it out for every webmaster seeking higher traffic volumes, the search engine algorithms aren’t intended to destroy the linkbuilding industry’s SEO attempts. The whole point of this Google Penguin crackdown is to single out the manipulative links that have been distributed by automated spamming sites, and fair enough. Webmasters who have effectively-employed natural, linkbuilding strategies can finally reap the benefits of their hard labors, because they’ve earned it!

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you find yourself considering “white hat” strategies, we strongly encourage you to weigh the pros-and-cons of this risky attempt.  Realistically, SEO tactics that sell links via white hat strategies are far more likely to encounter marketing agencies that run like the dickens from these link acquisition services. In order to succeed in the current and ompetitive marketing realm, you have to plead your case, so to speak. Demonstrate that SEO is possible through natural linkprofiles, to lower their ‘linkbuilding guard.’

Also keep in mind that substituting guest posts and infographics for paid links is a very slippery slope that you should avoid at all costs. Realistically, these manipulative linking practices have already faced backlash, penalties and long-term, critical reviews. People are very quick to sport the fancy label of “content marketer,” but those who intend to streamline the labor-intensive processes just to manipulate search results are simply link spammers with a misconstrued job title.

The most important thing to remember? Relax and approach this venture with diligence.  Avoid linkbuilding shortcuts that may save you time, but cost you much more in consequences. Haste should not be a driving force for your marketing strategies. If you’re quick to expedite the linkbuilding process, you are likely to showcase a site that conveys exactly that: rushed efforts and/or presentation and illegitimate credibility. Always keep in mind that natural linkbuilding isn’t an urban myth. With the right strategies and legwork, you can avoid manipulative linking and all its associate penalties. Sure, this endeavor requires a fair amount of effort, but with a little bit of organic effort and an extra boost of gumption, it is possible to ensure your site’s successful placement in high search rankings!

Top 5 Free Press Release Link Building Resources

In order to increase brand recognition and visibility, many businesses are promoting their services and merchandise online these days. Press releases are an effective and inexpensive way to accomplish this task. The Internet provides multiple free sources for the distribution of press releases, but I have listed the top five here in terms of popularity, visibility and general SEO worth to your site.

24-7 Press Release
http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/

Alexa Rank: 15982
Pagerank: 6

24-7 Press Release offers a free press release plan which allows you to post one press release each day. They also have numerous other options for your PR team to consider. Their resources page also has some informative tips on writing press releases.

 

Free Press Release
http://www.free-press-release.com/

Alexa Rank: 4820
Pagerank: 5

This site is a little more functional since their free distribution option allows you to customize your press release with different font styles. They also offer the option to add up to three images to your release for one dollar, so you can really spice it up with your company logo or relevant photos.

 

PR.com
http://www.pr.com/

Alexa Rank: 8892
Page Rank: 6

This press release site is different from most others in that the releases are categorized. This comes in handy when you want to target a specific audience or bring qualified traffic to your site.

 

i-Newswire
http://www.i-newswire.com/

Alexa Rank: 12613
Pagerank: 6

With several distribution channels, such as a ‘new site’ distribution category, RSS feed distribution and search engine distribution; i-Newswire offers users the ability to meet specific needs other PR sites don’t. These specific channels are run by their distribution partners, which are listed on their Homepage.

 

PRLog
http://www.prlog.org/

Alexa: 2731
Pagerank: 6

PRLog is arguably the most functional of the top five, at least with the options available for free. You are allowed to include company logos, clickable links and a host of other options at no additional cost. There is no limit to the number of posts and many of the customizable properties of their formatting are SEO friendly.

 

Each of these sources offer tips on making the most of your press releases. The visual appearance and quality of the release is important but so are the distribution channels — who and how many people it will reach. Your best approach is to try several sites and see which one works best for you. When submitting, don’t forget to also promote your PR’s across social media channels.

Post-Penguin SEO In 2013: Foundational Strategies

According to Matt Cutts, Google’s well-known search engineer, Google’s algorithms change as frequently as once a day. On average, the algorithm changes around 500 times per year. If you think about it, keeping up with this many algorithm changes is impossible. Instead of focusing your energies on Penguin, Panda and other algorithm updates, you need to go deeper and beyond the commonly employed SEO techniques. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Share-worthy Guest Posts

We all know that guest blogging is a hotly debated topic in the SEO community. It is arguably one of the best ways to get traffic, backlinks and improve your social profile, all at the same time. But in the same way we permanently ruined article directories by stuffing our articles with keywords, many people are also misusing guest blogging. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, full of useless, keyword-infused content with no real value.

The links within these so-called guest blogs never get clicked on, and the pages have abnormally high bounce-rates. However, the fact that there are tons of mediocre guest blogs out there makes it easier for you to stand out, especially if your content is unique, original and share-worthy. Truly useful content often gets passed around on social networks, and legitimate referral traffic from social networks is an indicator of human activity. Search engines look for pages with high levels of human activity, and actively measure social signals such as: facebook likes, tweets, shares and comments.

With this said, you have an even greater incentive to write useful content rather than writing content for the sake of it. Think of guest blogging as an opportunity to make an impression on the host website’s visitors. You will only get one chance, but if you write an innovative and unique post with a twist, the host might invite you to write more posts.

Author Rank

Author rank is yet another step by Google towards a better web. The idea is to rank authors based on the authority and quality of their content as determined by Google’s algorithms. So, how does one go about building author rank?

Google+ comes in handy here. Go to the “About” section of your Google+ profile and add links to the webpages you regularly contribute content to. It is important to remember that Google+ plays an integral part in building your author rank, and Google considers many factors to compute it. These factors include: the number of people in your circles; the number of people who have you in their circles; your frequency of content generation, and the level of social activity on your Google+ profile.

This is what you should do to increase your author rank:

1. Create great content regularly
2. Be active on social media
3. Share useful content with people in your network

Co-Citation

Co-citation is yet another hotly debated topic among SEOs, and there seems to be some disagreement on what co-citation is, in addition to co-occurrence. Some theorize co-citation as a step by Google towards a more intelligent and semantic web. The concept itself is pretty simple to understand, and there are real examples in which co-citation has helped websites rank for keywords that were neither in their title, nor in their description tags.

Co-citation can best be explained with an example. Suppose Rob’s Ice Cream Parlor makes great “Blueberry Ice Cream.” In this case, search engines cannot make a connection between the keywords “Rob’s Ice Cream Parlor” and “Blueberry Ice Cream” unless they have been mentioned together on various websites. Google can now spot if there is a connection between two keywords or key-phrases, like the correlation between a company and its products.

There are numerous examples of co-citation that help websites rank for keywords they aren’t even attempting to rank. SEOmoz’s famous, Open Site Explorer ranks for the search term, “backlink analysis,” even though it isn’t mentioned in title, description or the page itself. Google picked up some other article from somewhere else on the web for use in the search snippet and that article does mention “backlink analysis” and “Open Site Explorer” together.

Press Releases

Some things never get old. Press releases are one of the oldest tricks in a SEO’s arsenal, but they still work. A well-positioned press release with useful information about your company’s products or services not only drives traffic to your website, but also helps increase awareness about your brand amongst the public. Apart from usefulness of your content, you can also insert relevant anchor texts where necessary to your home and inner pages. This helps you get backlinks and traffic, simultaneously.

How you distribute your press release is also very important. You can choose to email it to journalists and online news outlets manually, or use the services of a company like PRWeb or PR Newswire. Most of these companies guarantee syndication of your press release to hundreds of online news outlets, so if you know how to write a great press release, it can prove to be a great tool (especially when you’re launching a new product, service or campaign).

It is important to note that Matt Cutts of Google has stated that backlinks from press releases do not contribute towards page rank, but some recent tests have proven otherwise.

Social Media Signals

A couple of years ago, Matt Cutts denied the effect of social signals on rankings, but his denial has now changed into guilty admission. Not only do social signals affect rankings, but Google also made social signals an integral part of their ranking algorithm with the introduction of Google+.

So, what’s all the fuss about? It’s quite simple, really. Social signals, as we mentioned earlier, are an indicator of human activity. The number of times something gets liked, tweeted or commented on becomes an indicator of social value. The more popular something is, the more authoritative it becomes. This means social signals not only have the ability to affect rankings, but also the perceived value and authority of a website in the eyes of search engines.

Google and Bing, both major search engines, actively consider social signals to help rank websites and make SERPs more relevant to the user. Therefore, it is more important than ever to create share-worthy content, which can even go viral if you’re lucky, and focus your efforts on creating value rather than brute link building.

Best Practices for Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is beneficial for everyone involved. The person who’s blog you’re posting on can increase their audience by gaining your readers. The opposite is true, too. By posting a blog post to another person’s well-read blog, you’ll increase your exposure, gain additional readers and direct visitors back to your own website. In order to benefit both the owner of the blog and yourself, though, you have to follow guest blogging best practices.

Familiarize Yourself With the Blog

Before you pitch an idea or submit a blog post, get familiar with the blog you’ll be writing for. You have to make sure you’re not repeating a past blog post idea and that you’re sticking with the overall theme of the blog at the same time. While you don’t have to copy another writer’s style, you should try to stay close to the style of the blog, if possible. Don’t skip over the guest comments, either. They’ll give you a good idea of which blog posts are well liked and which ones get skimmed over quickly.

Submit Only High Quality Content

Just because your guest blog post isn’t going on your website, that doesn’t mean you can skimp on quality. Remember, the post is still going to have your name on it! Don’t ever skip over the proofreading step – you’ll be surprised at how many spelling, punctuation and grammar errors you miss if you only skim your writing as you type.

Add Tags to Your Post

Whether or not you’re posting the blog post yourself, make sure to add tags to it. If you’re uploading the post to the blogging platform, you can simply add tags in the destined field. Otherwise, include a list of keywords and keyword phrases along with the blog post so that the owner can easily add tags when they post it. Tags are a great way to add SEO to your blog post without sacrificing quality. The right tags will be noticed by search engines, making it all the more easy for people to find your post.

Add SEO Keywords

You should still add some SEO to your blog post even if you’re including tags as well. The key is to make the SEO seem streamlined and natural instead of choosing keywords that stick out like a sore thumb. With good writing, SEO simply comes naturally. Make sure you have a decent amount of SEO in the first paragraph, though, since this is the best area to place keywords to optimize search results.

Avoid Making Your Post Look Like Spam

It’s tempting to look at every keyword and reference in your guest post as another opportunity to attach a link. This will make your blog post look more like spam and less like interesting content, though. Readers are very in tune to advertising and because it’s so prevalent on the Internet, your blog post may be ignored entirely if it’s suspected to be advertising or, worse, spam. Blog readers don’t want to be inundated with advertising!

Use Links Wisely On Your Own Blog

After your guest post has been published, write a bit about it on your own blog and include a link to the blog and post. If you only include one or two links in your blog post, it won’t look like spam. Also, it will have the intended effect of directing people to the other blog and your guest post.

Promote Your Guest Post

It’s a kind of unsaid agreement between the writer and the blog owner that you’ll promote your guest blog post once it’s up. Otherwise, the blog owner isn’t really able to increase their readership by tapping into your followers. You have to promote your post by linking to it from your own website or blog as well as your social media platforms.

Submit the Post to Search Engines

Popular search engines like Yahoo! and Google often have an option to submit a new link. You can also submit the blog post link to social bookmarking websites like Reddit, StumbleUpon and Digg, which catalog all links submitted by users. Then, users can easily find and share these links, increasing traffic to the blog and blog post. Submitting links doesn’t guarantee that the blog post will show up first in results, but it does increase the chance of having the post be found by Internet surfers.

Add Links to Your Own Blog

Your own personal blog or website should have a blog roll or list of links that you want to recommend. Add the blog owner’s URL to this list – they’ll likely do the same for you in return. This is the quickest way to get the blog owner’s link in front of a bunch of people at once. Hopefully, people will click on the link and then find your blog post on the blog.

Comment on Comments

Revisit your blog post often and check out any new comments that people have left. If it calls for it, respond back. When readers know that they may be able to catch the writer’s attention and even strike up a conversation, they’ll be more likely to interact on the blog post and blog in general. You can also visit other people’s blog and leave comments on posts. Make sure to include the URL to the blog or your blog post along with your comment – most blog comment sections have an area specifically for a URL. The more interesting your comment, the more likely readers will be to click your link.

Write for the Blog Often

If all goes well the first time around, there isn’t any reason why the blog owner won’t want a qualified and experienced guest blog writer back a second time and more. Build good relationships with the people you blog for and try to stay on a submission schedule. One blog post per month is great, if you can work it out with the blog owner and handle the schedule. The more you post to a blog, the better your Internet search engine ratings will be.

Authoritative Links: Building Links on Wikipedia

This piece explores how and why to create a Wikipedia page for your company. Public relations (PR) and Internet experts indicate the site is invaluable when it comes to virtual branding and developing an online presence. Creating a Wikipedia (Wiki) company page is no small feat. Following certain entry protocol eliminates the possibility of article deletion.

History of Wikipedia

In 2009, Time Magazine explored Wikipedia’s troubled start. Initially founded as an online encyclopedia, founders Jimmy Wales and Lawrence Sanger revamped their Nupedia website to facilitate article production speeds. The result was a platform where anyone could create pieces about anything without editor wait times. Wikipedia went live in 2001. As of 2009, the site had approximately three million entries.

Due to earlier content problems, the company eventually enlisted the help of volunteer editors who constantly monitor site information. This created stringent entry requirements that are still in effect. Wikipedia’s societal impact is a constant subject of discussion. In 2011, Wikimedia recommended that Wikipedia receive recognition as a virtual World Heritage site. Only time will tell if the concept becomes a reality.

Importance

Wikipedia has over 19 million articles written in over 282 languages. PR companies stress the importance of a quality Wiki page considering many social media outlets like Facebook use Wikipedia to create separate pages for their respective sites. Electric commerce or ecommerce websites acknowledge a quality Wikipedia page is crucial for search engine optimization (SEO) planning.

Marketing departments relish SEO optimization. The concept describes Internet traffic generated from free online search engine listings. Wikipedia article links frequently rank among the top search engine results, giving companies an automatic traffic boost without absorbing additional company funds.

Business Types that Benefit from Wikipedia

Free advertising may seem like a gift to smaller enterprises with limited marketing budgets, but business advisors state the opposite. Wikipedia pages are best for larger entities with a proven record of accomplishment. Retailer Macy’s Inc. is one company with successful Wikipedia and Facebook pages that foster valuable online interactions.

Newer businesses may wish to stay away from Wikipedia for a number of reasons. Arrests, mismanagement and other growing pains immediately create unflattering new page entries. Personnel may not have the time to monitor edits from competing businesses or dissatisfied customers. Most important, fledgling companies cannot control page information that could hinder potential growth.

Creating a Page

Getting a page on the Wikipedia site is notoriously difficult. The open platform design means that readers or editors can deem pages unworthy or insignificant and call for their deletion. Employees and company representatives cannot create a Wiki page. Those that try find their pages deleted within 24 hours. A 2007 article reveals software giant Microsoft came under fire for attempting to manipulate their Wiki page using paid bloggers.

Companies not content with waiting for Wikipedia editor acknowledgement have two methods of Wikipedia page submission.

– Designate an employee the official Wikipedia liaison. Have the person become an active member of the site by editing other articles and conversing with other members in the user forums. Create a simple article after building a credible reputation within the site community. Immediately address editing concerns and discuss how to improve the piece according to Wiki standards.

– Create a Wikipedia account and request that a site editor create the company page. Requestors must state their role within the organization. In addition to designating a site category, users submit a brief company description. The site also requires links to a minimum of two outside information sources. Even pieces written by site editors receive deletion nominations, so users should always provide a wide range of company information to convince readers of entry validity.

According to website guidelines, company pages remain “shallow” or short. Most contain company history and goods or services offered. Editors also highlight historical and notable facts surrounding the business. The site strives to connect newer pages to existing entries instead of sending readers to outside links.

Additional Information

If a company chooses self-submission or an editor creation, one factor remains the same. Entries must have minimal media coverage before creating a Wikipedia page. This reinforces legitimacy and assures readers that the entity is culturally relevant. Many turn to Wikipedia to create industry buzz, not realizing the medium simply compounds on existing popularity.

All photo submissions need commercial use licensing to avoid copyright infringement. The company website should be the only page link. Editors review all additional links for possible spamming. Violating photo or link policies could result in page deletion.

Now you have some Wikipedia page basics. For the right company, a Wiki presence creates additional industry buzz and delivers societal relevance. The idea may seem enticing, but smaller businesses should wait before make their page debut to avoid sabotaging potential development.

Link Building With Press Releases

There was a time, long before search engine optimization overtook the way people create content, that press releases were reserved for seriously impactful announcements about a company’s new products, a new direction, or things like mergers and acquisitions. Press releases were infrequent, important, and noteworthy for the wide community of business professionals and customers who had a vested interest in that company. And then, starting about a decade ago, website owners discovered that a press release or two could actually boost their website’s ranking at major search engine like Google.

After it was discovered that press releases were a really big deal for search engine optimization, their importance began to wane, at least online. Over the next ten years, websites would release statements not only announcing new products and business directions, but also announcing things like how great their business was, and how high they were aiming for the new year. Press releases began stating the quality of products, rather than the novelty of them. In time, most people learned to ignore press releases. So did the search engines.

Do Fewer Blasts & Back Link Existing Press Releases More

Search engines have long recognized the potential for press release abuse and, with recent algorithm updates, Google has addressed this issue head-on. In recent years, the company’s Penguin and Panda updates have sought to reduce the importance of press releases, largely because they are so frequently abused. They’re also not very good for link building, especially within the new paradigm being promoted for today’s major search engines. There are three core pieces within that paradigm. A good link building strategy is one that shows all of the following three qualities:

1. It’s aimed at gaining new links from unique top-level domains around the Internet
2. It incorporates social signals and engagement
3. It promotes natural linking conventions and patterns

Each of these three components is completely ignored by those individuals who push out press releases on a daily or weekly basis through the major agencies on line. For a more in-depth look at how these three conventions are essentially being ignored, keep reading.

New Links from Unique Top-Level Domain Names Online

At first, press releases probably seem like a rather genius way to boost a website’s search engine rankings. The links that come into the website are from a large number of online press release firms and syndication agencies, and each link is highly unique. The problem arises the second time around, when website owners send out yet another press release about how great they are, rather than some big news even that’s going to characterize their business. The inbound links generated are, once again, coming from major online press release sites and syndication operations. This time, they are not unique.

Time after time, these links get less unique, more repetitive, and far less effective. In the eyes of Google’s new algorithms, constant links from PR agencies represents a case of abusing the system. If the search engine does determine that a site us sending out abusive and unnecessarily frequent press releases, they’ll further punish the website with an even lower ranking. In the worst cases, they’ll remove the site from Google’s index altogether. That’s a very, very big loss.

Incorporation of Engagement and Social Signals

The release of Google Penguin focused quite a bit on social media referrals and user engagement, and the follow-up Google Panda increased the importance of those activities even more, in its own way. Today, website owners who want to move upward in Google’s search engine rankings need to dramatically improve their user engagement by encouraging their readers to like, tweet, and comment, on a regular basis. Press releases generally do not encourage this at all.

The only real way for a website to boost its search engine rankings would be if a press release inspired someone to go to Facebook, find the company who released the statement, and then click through to that company’s website directly from the social network as a result of the press release. If that sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. It’s highly unlikely to happen, and that means bad news for any website that frequently releases news statements to the major PR wires online.

Natural Linking Patterns and Conventions

A uniform press release is sent to a large number of online PR wires, who all link to the author’s website using the same anchor text. This would only be natural if it occurred one time, on one website, and not in aggregate on tens or hundreds of press release sites. This type of linking is largely ignored by Google if it occurs a large number of times, netting websites no tangible gain in rankings at any major search engine.

All Hope is Not Lost: Simply Don’t Abuse Press Releases

When press releases are sent out to the major PR websites infrequently, they do benefit the author’s website. That’s because these unnatural linking styles are an exception, not a rule, and Google rewards them appropriately. When determining whether to send out a news release, be sure to consider the following questions:

– Is this information unique?
– Is this information newsworthy?
– Have I sent out a press release recently?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then it’s probably a good idea to stay away from issuing a press release. Instead, use a guest post to tell existing customers about exciting new changes in a company’s products. This guest post can also be used as a promotional article, and posting it on an industry blog is a far better use of resources than posting it to a press release website online. Furthermore, because most PR websites require a paid membership in order to distribute news statements, this actually saves quite a bit of money for website owners.

Press Releases Make Excellent Buffer Sites

Instead of churning out press releases, consider employing link building tactics to support the releases that already exist.

All things are good in moderation, including the use of press release to discuss exciting new developments about a company’s products and services.

Dominating SERPs In Your Niche (Beyond Your Brand)

Will Scott recently published a post referencing SERP domination as “The Holy Grail of SEO”.  Coincidentally, I recently spoke with a client in the dental industry, they were looking to achieve a page 1 ranking in Google for a geo-modified version of the query “dental implants”.

“Chicago Dental Implants”, for example.

They explained to me that they were working with a limited budget and a relatively new domain.  The solution I suggested?

Utilization of Parasite SEO.  Geo-modified queries such as this as prime targets for promotion via established hosts.  Obviously, the longterm goal for any client is an effective ranking on their target query with their direct site, but true SERP saturation can be achieved in a quick and cost efficient manner by making use of established resources.  My suggestions:

LinkedIn Company Page
Create a company page integrating their target query into the company name.  This translates into your target query existing in the page title of your company page on LinkedIn.  It’s worth noting, LinkedIn allows the crafting of a fairly rich user experience by allowing a textual description of your company, embedded hyperlinks, a video feature, and even any special offers you might be offering at the time.  Promotion (and effective rankings) of these pages takes significantly less effort given their established trust and link equity.

PRWeb Press Release
Don’t believe press releases still work?  SEOConsult.com, referenced in Will’s original article, illustrates otherwise, as does my personal experience.  Leveraging a reputable company like PRWeb ensures you have an additional content source (think: low-hanging fruit) to promote to rank your target query with any copy you’d like.  Ensure the release is drafted with a positive spin, but avoid sales copy here.  Often times, third person neutral or positive mentions referenced from non-company sources can yield more interest than direct promotion.  Even if your content doesn’t get syndicated, your end result is an additional highly-relevant authoritative content source to promote.  Once again, ensure you work your target query into the title of the press release.  Minor linking efforts yield astounding results.  Voila.

YouTube/Google+
It’s not shocking that Google seems to have a positive bias toward effective rankings on pages within their own network.  Utilize unique copy for each, ensure the page titles on your respective profiles include your target query (preferably in a non-spammy way) and create or repurpose existing media featuring your company, product, or service.  The end result?  3 solid (query-specific, content-rich, authoritative) sources to promote via linking efforts that don’t require heavy lifting.

At minimum, using the techniques above, we’re able to generate keyword targeted content that responds exceptionally well to minor external linking efforts.  I have personally used these techniques to achieve non-branded SERP domination in as a few as 14 days.  Hundreds of other highly effective parasite hosts exist.  Invest your effort in creating content that’s compelling about your organization, the rest will fall into place.

Have you utilized this strategy?  What are your favorite content publishing sources?

Contributing Blogger: Zach Hedrick

 

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