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 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 <a href=”http://www my sources.ranker.com/list/plastic-surgeons-report-9-most-requested-celebrity-noses/sandramiller” onclick=”__gaTracker(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘outbound-article’, ‘http://www.ranker.com/list/plastic-surgeons-report-9-most-requested-celebrity-noses/sandramiller’, ‘9 Most Requested Celebrity Noses’);” target=”_blank”>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

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Internal Linking: The Benefits Of Great Information Architecture For SEO

Every time I write a requirements document for SEO, I make sure to address Usability and Information Architecture. I like to think that Google will reward sites that do have good Information Architecture because it is mostly always search engine friendly designs that support crawlability and indexing. This is usually the reason I spend a lot of time with the User Experience team or UX designers, because working closely with them will only help influence a search engine friendly design built into the product requirements. I’m not going to sit here and say that I win every time, but, I’ll take a win where I can get it. Aside from all the awesome acronyms, I thought I would share some of the things that I have seen influence IA, UX, and SEO.

Sub-Pages and Navigation

Deep Content websites have a ton of content that requires you to split pages up and helps from both a standpoint of clean Information Architecture of main page to sub-page. Similar to category and sub-category indexes, entertainment content like Movies, TV, Celebrities and Music all have deep content types and indexes, putting it all on one page would be one incredibly long, unusable page with a horrible user experience. Oh, and that page would probably take 20 seconds to load even on today’s speedy internet connections. I think it’s fairly obvious that pages and sub-page types exist, so, taking a few minutes to think it through is probably a good idea.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are navigational elements that are designed to help the user experience of a website by leaving a trail of where are user is browsing on the site. From an SEO standpoint, breadcrumbs are extremely useful because of all the internal links that are created as you get deeper into the content. For sites with a lot of deep content or a large index of pages, this can be especially helpful because the number of internal links grows exponentially.

Example of a Breadcrumb:
So, let’s say I was designing a breadcrumb for Myspace and I was on the Kim Kardashian topic page. It would look something like this:
Home > Celebrities > Kim Kardashian

And, by the way, the term “Breadcrumb” is probably one of the coolest web terms used…how could you not use them on your site?!

In-Page Navigation

In-Page Navigational links can be referenced in a few different ways, from jump-links to on-page anchors, etc. It’s actually one of the oldest forms of navigation from the web 1.0 days when websites didn’t have fancy menu’s, navigation elements, etc. Today, you’ll still see many sites use in-page navigation to guide users through FAQs or even through large pages. Wikipedia and IMDB are great examples of this as they have fairly long pages and help users move through page content fairly easily.

Now, from an SEO standpoint, this is awesome for internal linking because, URL fragments (#) (and, everything the follows) that are used in on-page anchors are ignored by search engines and therefore creates links internal to that page. While It is debatable from an SEO standpoint, you can leverage URL fragments for SEO benefits in AJAX as well.

Related Links

Related links are a gold-mine and one of my favorite types of ways to leverage User Experience for SEO purposes. From a page to page browsing standpoint, they are great at increase page views while users stay engaged, clicking through your website content. There are all types of implementations from modules in sidebar’s, sub-page sections, and link lists to navigate users through a website. Many of these examples range from “Songs similar to…”, “You might also like…”, or “Top Lists.” Here are some examples from Kanye West’s HAM song page on Myspace:

User Experience and SEO

I tried to show some of the key examples of how user experience and SEO teams can work together. But, there are so many more examples out there and every website and product have different use cases. The key is to work together to create richer and smarter user experiences on the web. And, you can pretty much guarantee that by creating that solid UI, with a well thought out content architecture, you’re site will be search engine friendly. This helps overall SEO strategies through strong internal linking that increases crawl paths and rich anchor text links on your website. An overall win-win for UX and SEO in my opinion.

I make it a point to talk to user experience professionals daily to understand how they think and talk through various scenarios. There are countless times where they have helped me think outside the box on projects and through a simple brainstorm, come up with better SEO solutions for a page, product, or website.

AJAX & SEO: A strategic approach to rankings

Dealing with the limitations of AJAX and Flash can be an SEOs worst nightmare. There are so many issues that come into play & usually you can deal with many AJAX SEO issues by developing Progressively Enhanced code. While, I’ve written about how to address crawling and indexing with AJAX and SEO. I wanted to take a little bit of a deep dive into this again, along with the bigger issue, ranking.

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Site Speed: Reducing Page Load Times and Increasing Pages Crawled

I’ve always been a big fan of quick page load times on sites from overall User Experience standpoint. But, ever since Google announced that they were using site speed in web search ranking I have become a big time stickler about this. After watching this for the last couple months, I’ve realized that my peskiness about the whole thing warranted just cause.

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Are Google's real time and latest results REALLY based on relevance?

I’ve had a few colleagues and friends lately ask me about Google’s real time search results since they launched real time search about two months ago. To some of you, this might be an obvious post, as Rae from Outspoken Media pointed out with her post about Google enabling real time spam.

I was then alerted by a friend that apparently Google is filtering people based on relevance and followers and all that jazz. He pointed to an article talking about how Google ranks tweets. Which the author talks about hashtags, followers, relevance and all that jazz to get you to think that the real time results are actually influenced by these attributes in search.

Being the investigative person that I am, I decided that I needed to see this for myself and figured that American Idol would be something that is somewhat trending, it would be the right opportunity to test out the real time spam that Google enabled.

First, I did a search for American Idol and noticed some real time results. So, it was time for me to tweet away and see if I could get some results in there. Now, remember, I NEVER talk about Idol, I could care less about American Idol, and honestly, I know I’m entirely irrelevant to idol, but then I saw this rank:

So that was just a test…now some of you might say, well, that was because it was just talking about American Idol and only relevant to American Idol. Fine, I thought through that and figured it might be interesting to see what would happen if I posted a link to the Kindle in Amazon to see if you could spam affiliate offers via the real time results:

Done deal! Granted, I didn’t get any clicks from Google to that link, but it just goes to show that you can pretty much game the real time results fairly easily at this point. The more people look at those results and the more intertwined they become to the search experience, the more you could figure out ways to game it.

I could essentially create bots via twitter or hire overseas labor extremely cheap to go out there and just tweet all day with a bunch of affiliate links to trending topics and such with real time and maybe get some VERY minimal to no results. Then again, it makes me wonder if/when people will start clicking on those results that are relevant to the original searcher intent of their query? At that point, you’ve opened a flood gate of people that could do what I just mentioned above.

Just something to think about. Again, like I said, for some of us, this is pretty obvious stuff, but, thought it would just be interesting to run the analysis and post about it.

What are your thoughts about real time search results? Do you think they will be gamed and spammed more and more?

Online Reputation Management DOES matter

So, I wake up this morning and see a post written by Darren Slatten completely dismissing the importance of Online Reputation Management. And, I found the post a little comedic at best, so, I’ll give him a little bit of credit for that, but, one thing I won’t give him credit for is researching the topic. Now, I am not going to attack Darren personally or professionally, because I haven’t worked with him, nor do I know his abilities, and, it’s just not my place to do so. This is just a post telling you why Online Reputation Management is EXTREMELY important.

Why Online Reputation Management is important

For companies and individuals alike, there is a major need for reputation management. It’s the reason that conferences have panels specifically on the topic. That reason is that individuals and businesses alike can be affected by negative reputation. This isn’t just an issue of popularity either, it’s an issue of brand perception, an individuals brand perception, or even the ability to be hired/fired from a job.

Having Online Reputation Management concerns can cause revenue losses and/or income.

I really want to state that if you have not dealt with this or have no experience in understanding the Reputation Management space, then please, do not write about why it is not important.

Who are these people?!

Rather than continuing to tell you why ORM is so important, I’ll answer the question you might ask: “who are the people or companies that care about online reputation management?” Lets run through a few of these right here to provide a better understanding of why ORM is important:

CEOs

An organization with a CEO that has negative perceptions in the press or social atmosphere can lead to the organization or the brand of that organization having negative sentiments or perceptions. I’m not just talking about the SERPs here, but, in terms of Social Mentions in blogs, microblogs, and/or news results that surround that individual. Did you know 87% of people believe a CEO’s reputation reflects on the overall company’s reputation?

Political Figures

Think about the number of times have you seen a political figure that gets tons of bad press and has led to the downfall of his/her campaign or election/re-election to office. Social Media is now playing a part in the political climate and because of that we saw now President Obama reach millions of people.

But, to take this to the next level, lets look at an example that deals with President Obama. How many of you can say you know that he is a smoker? (Now, I am not judging him on this, but using it as a point of reference). This was downplayed a ton during the elections again because of the fact that his team did not want to create a negative perception of the candidate during the elections. This becoming an issue could have, hypothetically, led to the loss of many votes, especially from anti-cigarette and anti-smoking groups.

Companies and Brands

Companies and the brands of those companies alike experience the most pain when it comes to reputation management. Something that is a hard fact: Companies and Brands with negative search results tied to brand related queries will see a drop in revenue because a user/customer is likely to switch products/services based on that negative result. Even more interesting is that queries relative to corporate figures will also lead to a dip in revenue/sales. It’s estimated that 58% of searchers will visit a competing website after seeing negative search results.

An example of this is tied to PayPal and my experience working there. PayPal saw 4 of it’s top 10 search results tied to the brand query “paypal” go to flame sites. Working internally, there was an estimated figure in net revenue losses per negative search result. That is where that 58% number above comes in…because of this negative reputation caused by search results, users were switching.

Celebrities

Celebrities make the news all the time for the stupid things that they do. Whether it is someone driving drunk or who’s sleeping with who, it is all things that affect their personal brand. And, in this case, their personal brand is like that of a business, their personal brand is the most important thing to their livelihood.

Because I am all about examples, lets continue down that path and look at the sports figure that we all know I can’t stand: Kobe Bryant. He was accused of raping a girl in a hotel room back in 2003/2004. Luckily for Bryant this was during a time when Social Media was not as prominent, but, unluckily for Bryant it still effected him financially. He lost endorsement deals from companies like Nike because of the negative press and negative reputation.

The Job Market

The economic climate is horrible at the moment. Unemployment is at astonishing highs and it’s tough to find a job right now. Now, to add to that, recruiters and HR teams are getting savvier and understanding Search and Social Media extremely well. What does that mean for you? It means that Online Reputation Management is important to your personal brand. Because, not only are they looking, but 78% of recruiters research a candidate online and 35% actually reject a candidate based on this. Andy Beal even wrote a post on why your Google Reputation can hurt your career.

Creating a personal brand is even more important as researchers and experts in the job market reference this all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’m watching CNN, (and let me tell you, I caught a lot of it while I only had a few channels the last couple months!), and these experts mention Facebook, Google, search, and your personal brand being EXTREMELY important, not just now during economic uncertainty, but, forever.

Don’t be silly, Online Reputation Management does matter:

Again, this is another situation where we have someone that is creating a post that is possibly baiting for reactions or what not. Or, we have another person in the industry that is writing something without actually researching the topic. But, please please please people, if you have no experience or expertise on a topic, then stay away from writing it, it just makes you look like you haven’t done your research. And, if you look at the stats above, then it’s pretty obvious that ORM does matter.

Startup Mistakes: Just launched my site, now I need SEO

I have been in SEO and Internet Marketing for some time now and I can’t tell you how many sites I have worked with or seen that have come to me after launch and said “I need SEO now!” Heck, I was even victim to that when I was tasked with my first major web project. I worked on getting a site built, did all the research, but didn’t think about SEO or Internet Marketing until after the fact, and it really was much more painful that way.

The pain of launching a site and then worrying about Internet Marketing efforts is because of the affect on time, money, resources. Also, you take away from great opportunities that are out there for startups in the form of buzz. Building marketing strategies into your product is ever more critical in today’s internet marketplace. (I’ll stick to SEO on this post to keep a unified theme, but minor semantic tweeks would really speak to entire Internet Marketing strategies.) That said, understanding the mistakes that people like myself have made in regards to SEO will help you to learn and build strategies for obtaining search traffic when launching a new site.

Time is money: You’ve just built your site, you’ve launched, and now you want to start thinking about SEO. The problem is, all that up front work like site architecture is going to have to be re-done, which puts you behind and could effect your bottom line. Time truly is money and in this case, it is a direct correlation.

Engineering efforts and resources: Just as we mentioned in the last example, there are occasions where sites launch and the entire site now need to be re-architected to accomodate SEO. This basically means that you are stopping all your new product development and possibly monetization efforts in order to build in elemetns that should have been done from the get go.

The pre-launch and launch buzz!: YOU JUST LAUNCHED your site and generated buzz (crosses fingers, hopefully!) to your startup through mentions in sites like Mashable, Techcrunch, etc. Also, news in the form of publicity and press releases are also an opportunity at gaining momentum on your SEO efforts. If you had your hands on keyword research, created a theme around your site, and had a strategy for external links from all these “news” outlets, you could have turned leveraged some “Buzz Marketing” and turned it into SEO (more specifically Link) Juice.

When launching a site it is so easy to get caught up and not think through all the opportunity available to you with SEO. Don’t let that happen to your site and think through how you can build SEO and Internet Marketing into your site launch. Save yourself time, money, and effort and use the new product buzz to your advantage by helping you acquire traffic through SEO.

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