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    Our collection of stories, tips, and thoughts about marketing and growth. We'll teach you everything we've learned.

Implementing SEO basics that can increase traffic dramatically

At most large organizations, doing just the basics can help you out tremendously, the value of your domain itself is huge. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can implement the basics and just walk away, SEO is still a holistic process that is important to continuously follow up on. At the same time, it still means that you need to nail the basics, and if you do, it will pay off in spades!

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Knowing and realizing your value

This week, I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience what is the 4th layoff round, but the fortunate side is, I somehow made it through without being laid off, again. It was quite a relief to know I wasn’t going to have to look for a job or find a job during a tough economic downturn. Even as hot the technology scene is in LA, and quite frankly all over, it is never fun to have to look for a job.

After the tough day that was the layoffs, I was able to sit down with someone that I care about, over dinner. I feel like it was perfect timing for me. I was going through a lot of introspection lately and trying to understand, “what is my value?” Lately, it’s been on my mind, am I valuable outside of being an SEO? Is being an SEO good enough for the long term? Is it time to continue the diversification of my skill set? The answer to this question whenever I think of it, is always an emphatic yes.

Over the last couple years I’ve spent much of my time outside of SEO learning how to get visibility with social media, learning the basics of business development while building relationships and partnerships. It has seriously been some of the best experience I have had in my career, and helped me to diversify my skill sets of being really good at product, project management, SEO and technology. Diversifying yourself as a technologist, marketer, and overall as someone that works on the web is extremely important, especially as you continue to grow and move forward in your career.

So, back to the question, am I just an SEO? I have had to think long and hard about that. As I mentioned, I’ve made sure to diversify. Something that you should be asking yourself as well. You should be asking yourself, “What makes me different from the guy sitting next to me?” Being a standard anything just isn’t good enough, the web changes so fast and that knowing a skill at it’s best 2 years ago, just isn’t going to cut it now, let alone 3 years from now. Don’t get me wrong, you can make a great living and you’ll find a job…but…that isn’t what we are talking about here. What I am talking about is killing it and realizing your full potential as an individual that contributes to innovation and online technologies. What I am talking about here is making a name for yourself, becoming someone that people look to, being someone that people ask for advice. Being average is not going to

run of the and ask yourself if you are okay with that? Many careers and skills online, are important to be honed in on and learned to perfection. If you have and really enjoy what you

“What makes me any different than anyone else that does SEO?” So, while I was pondering this I realized that I am not just an SEO person, nor am I just a marketer. It reminded me of a conversation that I had with a former colleague 2+ years ago about how we both took great pride in being generalist. The reason I thought it was important that I realized this tonight is that it was like an awakening, I realized tonight while talking to earlier mentioned individual, my value is that I know more than just SEO. That I do have experience in all facets of web businesses.

I bring all of this up because it’s important to understand your skills, how you apply them, and the confidence you have in yourself. Once you realize your potential and are confident in your abilities, people feel it and embrace it. The important thing is not to let it get to your head and stay humble about your abilities.

How To: Identify The Topics Your Target Audience Actually Wants To Talk About

If a post goes up on Twitter or Facebook, and no one is around to engage with it, does it still make a sound? Not if you’re trying to build up a brand it doesn’t.

Ad.ly Analytics

Whether your social media efforts are for personal or professional gain, they still require a certain amount of — well, effort. And, unless you’ve got a lab in your basement that manufactures that elusive commodity known as free time, you probably don’t have either the appetite or the ability to expend effort without receiving some sort of return. And, the best way to guarantee that your time investment nets a nice big return is to first identify the topics that are most likely to get your target audience talking about and — more importantly — sharing what you write.

To figure out which topics your target audience likes to talk about, you first need to identify who that target audience is. Ad.ly has a great analytics platform  that breaks down the geographic and demographic makeup of your Twitter audience, but since the platform is still in Beta, you need to give them your email and cross your fingers for an invite. While you’re waiting, Klout will help you identify who your social media efforts influence the most, and tell you which topics you talk the most influentially about. You can also use Export.ly to break down data like location, time zone and bio for your Twitter followers, and activity, engagement and comments for your Facebook fans. Plus, there’s always Facebook Insights to help you get demographic data like age, gender, language and the like for folks who like your posts and pages.

Facebook Insights Dashboard

Once you’ve got a handle on who your followers are, the next piece of the puzzle is figuring out what they want to talk about. To do this, you could go the manual route — going back through some of the aforementioned tools, like Klout and Facebook Insights, to see which topics you’re considered most influential about and which posts get the most likes and shares. Similarly, you can also look at a site like Crowdbooster to see who your most influential followers are, and hone your topic choices based on their profiles. Crowdbooster also has a dashboard that shows you which of your Tweets got the most replies, which is a great indicator of which topics you should probably talk about more.

Tweetstats also has a similar feature, allowing you to hone in on your Tweet density, as well as a nifty ‘Tweet cloud’ that shows you which topics you already talk about all the time. If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, ViralHeat will makes a great companion to that sort of info, as it generates all sorts of charts illustrating what goes viral from your accounts and when. The plus side to ViralHeat is you can chart Facebook, Twitter, your blog and any other social media efforts you’re making all in one place, although it does take a monthly fee and a little bit of elbow grease to get it all set up. If you want to stick with the free tools, TweetEffect tells you which of your Tweets resulted in a gain or loss of followers, complete with a color coded timeline of your Twitter history. And, Facebook Insights will give you a similar sense of which days you generated a lot of likes and comments, and which days you didn’t, which you can then use to infer which posts got people talking and which were met with radio silence. For more guidance on that, check out this recent Mashable article detailing all the ways to make the most of the Insights platform — especially section 2, which goes into a lot of useful detail about content optimization.


Now that you’ve identified who your audience is, and what they like talking about, there’s only one thing left to do. Stop reading this post and get on with writing a few of your own — after you’ve shared this article with all your fans and followers first, of course.



Save Time Guest Blogging, List Away

If you are doing SEO of any form, you’ll know one of the biggest and most important challenges is finding links. A quick and easy way that I recommend to companies that I work for or with is to guest blog on various sites. It’s even better when you know about a site like Ranker, where it’s extremely easy to create content and links that not only have an SEO benefit, but also, a traffic benefit to your site.

I’ve watched Ranker create a fun and easy platform for the creation of lists of all times, from The 10 wackiest lawsuits ever filed to Top Celebrity Homes on the Market in LA. It’s been great watching it grow as a product and having used it, I know how quick and painless it is to create lists of all types that will not only create links to external sites but also generate referral traffic. Also, each post has a link to your twitter account, so, it’s also a great way to get an increased following on social.

Ranker is a site about lists – all kinds of lists – that launched in August 2009 and now has well over 2 million monthly uniques. The best part is there is no one to reach out to at another website to sell them on being a guest author, it’s completely UGC. Basically, just create an account, start posting, and start promoting the content. And, we all know how easy it is to create a top 10 list that’s somewhat relevant to your site, anyone can do that, even my 1 year old nephew. :)

Obviously like anywhere and anything else having to do with content on the web, if you create a list that sucks, it’s not going to get much play. But, create an awesome list like Top 10 Celebrities Who Have Had Weight Loss Surgery and next thing you know, you’ve got powerful pages linking back to your domain from an external site. Again, it’s not just that, but, if it’s an effing amazing list and the team notices it, you’re likely going to get a good amount of referral traffic as well.

It’s super easy to make a list. You name your list, have the option to choose a category (or you can do an open-ended list), and build your list using a Netflix-esque drag-and-drop-with-autosuggest interface. If your list is in a category (like People, or TV, or Companies), the items you add to your list will likely already be in Ranker’s database with preloaded images.

Even if you have content that doesn’t fit nicely into their existing categories that gets lost in the algorithmic shuffle, interesting lists and effing amazing lists usually do fine regardless. So, if you have something like 9 Most Requested Celebrity Noses, even if there isn’t a “plastic surgery” category, you can do what this guy did and use the “people” category instead to give it that extra boost. 😉

The way you get back links

There is a “site:” field in Ranker’s list editing screen where you can add a backlink with anchor text without even having to know any HTML. The link is high up enough on the page – right below the title of the post and to the right of your Ranker username. The links are dofollowed and are prominent enough that they can drive some traffic to your site, of course, you still need to have great content to get clicks. The other positive is if other viewers of the list have a site, tumblr, etc. it’s possible to get second order effects of linking from them as well. aka more seo goodness.

Note that the “site:” link is somewhat hidden in Ranker’s list edit platform – you can find it on the right side of the page to the right of the area where you describe your list. As an added bonus, you also get to put links on your Ranker profile page which is automatically generated – a good opportunity for either a slightly different anchor text term, or an entirely separate link (and if you have a Twitter or a Facebook fan page they have a link slot for that as well).

Spam gets filtered out

If you’re worried about this becoming another shitty seo wasteland like squidoo used solely for backlinks, try throwing up a page with just a single link up and see if you can find it without going directly to the URL. Ranker has built some pretty intelligent algorithms that hide obviously-spam or clearly rushed content pretty quickly – while your post won’t be removed, it also won’t be linked to on many pages. Again, if you have shitty or no content, it’s worthless, just like anything else on the web.

So if you take a few minutes, put together a decently interesting list, give it an intro with a few sentences (this is another area you can use for promotional copy), add tags so it appears in more places on Ranker, etc, your post could get thousands of views and be a strong addition to your social media arsenal. You can also add videos or images without having to wrestle with embed codes. Ranker has a direct search portal into YouTube and an image API. I also highly recommend posting your list in “Blog View” (this is not the default view) unless you make a really long list. And title your list something clickable.

If you create a decent piece of content, odds are it will get views and rise in Ranker’s algorithmic content blocks, and perhaps Ranker’s editors will tweet it or add it to their Facebook stream. The better it does, the more search juice the post will have, and thus pass back to your site

(Disclaimer: I am an advisor for Ranker, and, I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because the site was a lot clunkier about a year ago, and, the traffic has gone up more than 10x. Also, while it seems like agenda pushing of my own, how many other guest blogging opportunities come with 2+ million uniques on quantcast. I’ve used it myself and I know others that have done so successfully as well (see above links), if nothing else, for the traffic benefit alone.)

Should I use the Canonical Tag or 301 Redirect to change domains?

At SMX West, Adam Audette mentioned that he had some success with the canonical tag and that in some cases he noticed that the canonical tag had been much more effective. It stuck in my head for a few months and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to test this out. Also, at SMX West, I talked about some of the gains that we saw because of finally implementing the canonical tag the right way. Trust me, it took a few tries to get it right!

As it turns out, I’ve been moving my personal blog to the Visible Factors blog and added a thoughts section on tonyadam.com, just to separate things a bit. (I know, that itself was a lot to digest!). But, before I 301 redirected the entire /blog/ section, I realized, “Oh! Perfect opportunity to test out the canonical tag.” So, I took two articles and implemented a cross domain canonical tag on one and a standard 301 redirect on the other. And, I was honestly shocked at the results. The test included two posts that I get a decent amount of traffic for. tweeting the post, and updating the posts in wordpress, basically, with the intention of forcing a crawl.

Cross Domain Canonical Tag vs. 301 Redirect Test:

For the cross domain canonical tag test, I took my post on Keyword Research and wanted to add the canonical tag for the post on visiblefactors.com. The 301 redirect test was based on my post on determining business development opportunities and I added a 301 redirect to the .htaccess file on tonyadam.com to permanently redirect that post. At that time, I went through the test, step by step.

Implementation of Canonical Tag and 301 redirect:

Cross Domain Canonical Tag:

I also implemented a 301 redirect on tonyadam.com:

redirect 301 /blog/508-find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/ http://visiblefactors.com/blog/2010/03/17/find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/

As of Saturday here was the rankings in SERPs:

SEO Keyword Research:

Business Development Opportunities:

Then I updated the posts in WordPress and posted a tweet on Saturday:

Tweet for canonical tag test:

Tweet for 301 redirect test:

Finally, as of Wednesday morning, here were the results in SERPs:

SEO Keyword Research:

Business Development (as of today):

Which should I implement?:

As you can see, the test proved Adam’s comments at SMX West about the canonical tag seeming like it was more effective instantly. The post on keyword research was updated in SERPs and seems to be more effective at updated the SERPs instantly. If that’s your goal, I would use the cross domain canonical tag implementation to get that done. It seems like it is the clear cut winner as the other post still hasn’t updated in the SERPs.

At the same time, I’ll be implementing a 301 redirect because I want my entire blog directory to be moved for all traffic to get redirected, etc. The test has shown me though that the cross-domain canonical tag is extremely effective. Especially in situation where you have identical content on two domains and you’d like to condense equity, but, both sites still need to stay up.

I’ll be running larger tests if possible over the next couple months and if possible share these results, but, if you’ve seen examples, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

SEO Basics for UCLA x425

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to guest speak with Richard Knafelc to the UCLA x425 extension course on SEO and Social Media for communications professionals thanks to Erik Deutsch. I love teaching and it was a great opportunity to do so, on my favorite topic of course.

We covered a lot of the basic principles of SEO from keyword research, to on-page SEO tactics and link building. The class also had some really good questions for Richard and I around things like Reputation Management, how Social Media helps SEO, etc. For

Tony Adam

Tony Adam is Founder and CEO of Visible Factors (a Prime Rank Media, Inc. company), has been in technology since 2000 and online marketing since 2003. Tony is an entrepreneur, startup advisor, and regular speaker at many technology and marketing conferences, including SMX, PubCon and SXSWI.

Social Media ROI Presentation from SMASH at USC

On Thursday of last week, I had the opportunity to present at SMASH (Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle) at USC. What I was really excited most about was the fact that we had many of the Master in Human Behavior students in attendance at the conference and was great hearing their thoughts and insights around Social Media. I presented on Social Media ROI and while my presentation is below I thought I’d share a few highlights:

1. Create Goals and a Plan: I really do believe that before starting any campaigns and worrying about the tools to track ROI, you need to define what those goals are, what you’ll be measuring against, and have a plan to achieve those goals.

2. Value: When you set those goals, it’s also critical to understand what types of value Social Media Marketing is going to add to the overall campaign or your organization daily, monthly, or weekly. Some of those values can be increased engagement (e.g. mentions, blog comments, etc.), increased traffic, or increased brand recognition.

3. Platforms: While there are many Social Networks, Bookmarking, and news sites, it’s important to understand where your site should be represented on the Social Web. While the general Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are really important to have a presence in, if you participate in photography Flickr has a large community.

4. Use existing tools on Social Media Platforms: Facebook has their insights product for Facebook Page owners, StumbleUpon has domain stats (e.g. http://su.pr/domain/myspace.com), and Myspace has Artist Dashboards. These tools can take you a long way without having to pay for anything right off the bat, so, make sure to take full advantage of all the free tools you can.

5. Free and Paid Tools: Along that same note of taking advantage of all the free tools out there, bit.ly has good click tracking for URLs you tweet and I highly recommend to at least start there with tools. After that, it would be a good idea to start looking at tools like Alterian SM2, Radian6, Social Flow, CoTweet Enterprise, etc. that make the most sense for your organization.

Would love to get your thoughts around Social Media ROI and hear any tips you have for others out there that are learning and/or working on programs to track these metrics. Leave a comment and lets get the conversation rolling!

Facebook Like Button: Now with Meta Data and Thumbnails

Well, it turns out that Facebook has included all of the meta data and thumbnail info for the like button around the web. This is great news for publishers as it gives the content that we and/or our users “like” more visibility in the Facebook stream. Along with that, it will likely greatly reduce the clutter that we see from around the web with share implementations, many publishers still have the facebook share and like button on their site. Time to clean up your UI!

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Stop Complaining About Search and Content Based Business Models

There is so much buzzing in the search industry from @arrington writing about why he thinks search still sucks and JCPenney being busted for paid linking. And, just weeks ago Google busted Bing for copying search results…or did they? Whew, I felt like that was one big run on sentence without no end in sight. And, to be honest, the story of search does not have an end in sight. This is a positive for innovation.

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