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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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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Why being a strategic marketer is so important

I’ve spent the last week at my parents house in a little town in Los Angeles called LaCrescenta. It’s been the first time I haven’t been in an office for over 1 week in 10 years (side note: this is the first time I’ve been at my parents for this long for almost 5 years). It has been good to take some time and reflect on things and do a little bit of looking at things from that 10 thousand foot view. Which has led me to thinking about why it is ever so important to take time, take a step back, and think more strategically.

Looking at things strategically

As it turns out, having your head down and not taking the time to create a strategic approach to things isn’t always the best…well…STRATEGY. I’ve learned a lot about how to think more holistically and strategically over the past 4-5 years. This has created opportunities for me to truly be strategic, innovate, and lead teams, while also delivering value tactically on a daily basis.

As we all know, much of marketing and creating great products is really understanding an industry, verticals within it, the overall market, and/or a customer and their needs. The creation of the new types of media, such as social media sites like Twitter, has truly shined light on how important a customer is. You can find many posts around the web talking about engaging customers, honesty, and being transparent (funny thing is, thats all some social media people talk about, but I digress). The point is, the days of shouting at people via television ads isn’t really “moving the needle” the way it use to, and, as consumers really look to at different forms of consuming media, we have to understand the people we are looking to reach even more.

Being strategic provides opportunities to see what you might have missed.

We are all in “go mode” and trying to make things happen daily, trying to “provide value.” There are so many days that I sit there and engage in social media, work on editorial calendars, and put together plans, etc. for the companies I am working for that I don’t have the time to think strategically. This becomes a problem because a lot of things that are glaring situations or opportunities tend to pass you by.

But, the question is, when you are spinning your wheels just trying to get stuff done, are you really providing value to your organization? Your Client? and even more so, the consumer?

In my opinion, you are not. That is why being more strategic provides opportunities and more value in the long run. Being strategic means stopping what you are doing, analyzing a consumer, and finding out what they are actually looking for. Analyzing a journalist and finding out what they would write about, what they would link to, who they would reach out to. Even better, looking at data to understand patterns, user behavior, etc. that will truthfully provide value to a consumer. Which means you, as a strategic thinker is providing more value by obtaining more customers or actively engaging, re-engaging, and retaining more customers.

Set aside time to think strategically

Taking the time out daily or weekly, gives you an opportunity to think more holistically as a marketer. Take time to think about what people want. Marketing is not about pushing a message or advertising your product. Marketing is truly understand what is important in any given marketplace. Marketing is the process of creating value in an industry that will ultimately lead to obtaining customers and retaining customers.

An example of this can be a product you offer or a template that you develop for your website. Some time ago, I was putting together specifications for pages that should be built on a site. I threw them together from an SEO perspective. Title Tags, alt tags, URLs, etc…you name the technical requirement, and I had it spec’d out. The problem I didn’t think through was, am I really creating value? Am I really understanding what people want out of those pages? Would customers be happy? Would the Media? Would Social Media Users? Overall, that was the problem I was not thinking through and that is an order of magnitude greater than any title tag or url in the long run.

I hit this realization that I should not just try to get stuff done and should actually take some time to think through a problem. Now that I have, I have made sure that I dedicate time to actually blocking out periods of time to think more strategically on a weekly basis. During that time, I switch my surroundings and either go to a coffee shop, lock myself in a conference room at the office, or something of that sort.

Consultants can help with Strategy

There are three ways that bringing in consultants can help with the problem of thinking strategically as an organization:

Consultants can provide a fresh set of eyes that are not tightly integrated with your business, along with being able to be objective about features, content, etc. because they are not vested in the design, for example Discover More Here. Hiring a strategic consultant also means they will not be inundated with trying to deliver on daily traffic goals, daily product meetings, etc. They will be able to work externally, analyze a business, an industry, and the consumer and make recommendations that you can implement.

Hire consultants that are tacticians to help alleviate your daily support needs. Whether you are managing communities, doing something tied to SEO, managing PPC campaigns, etc. All that matters is that you are bringing someone in to alleviate the fact that you need free time to think more strategically. Many times, a business has learned so much about their industry that they have all the research necessary to think strategically and just needs to time and ability to step away from day to day processes to actually do just that, think strategically.

Being a consultant now at days is no longer about specialization and more about strategy. Todd Malicoat just recently wrote about being a Business Management Consultant and I think its so important to think that way now. Just being a PPC consultant, SEO or Social Media Marketer isn’t going to cut it going forward. It is the exact reason that I am happy that I have prided myself in becoming a generalist in technology and the Internet. Understanding all facets of project management, product development, ideation, marketing, etc. is so important. But, be careful, because, just like the ever so popular “Social Media Experts” that can talk about being one, but, don’t really understand it. The same goes here, being a business consultant and advising businesses isn’t just knowing a few things, it’s being a generalist that understands all aspects deeply enough to truly provide holistic feedback to an organization about their market, their product, etc.

Overall Web Strategy is crucial

Overall, it is important to start thinking more strategically as businesses start to evolve online. Being strategic, being a leader, and understanding a market is more important now than it ever was. Being a true marketer involves understanding an industry and providing value. We should all be striving to provide more value to organizations going forward.

Have you spend enough time on web strategy? Are you hoping to spend more time on it? I want to hear what people are thinking about thinking strategically overall!

Building Traction with Search and Social Media Visibility

 

Over the last few months I’ve seen an interesting cross section of startups to large brands and marketers to developers that are all running businesses. There has been one thing that ties all of these people together, and that is gaining traction and visibility to your website or business online.

If you are a large brand, you already have that visibility, but it is hard to continue to be nimble and build quickly, therefore, you are typically left behind. While startups run into a different kind of problem, they are able to create cool cutting edge products, but, does anyone see these products? Many times, they are not visible and have no traction. I’ve talked to a number of developers, product guys, and “startup dudes” that all run into that problem. The reason being:

People don’t realize that just building a great product is not going to bring you buzz, traffic, or growth, it doesn’t work without visibility.

So, what do you do to solve this problem? There are a few things that you can do if you are a startup or your just a humble guy trying to make a living off a website that you own.

Search Visibility

SEO seemed like such a 4 letter word a few years ago. And, lately I’ve had interesting conversations around getting traffic in general, where I’ve been the SEO Evangelist, talking about how targeted and the high ROI of Search Traffic. It’s been exciting talking people and businesses that understand or are beginning to understand the importance for Search Visibility.

Creating Search Visibility is created by building Search Friendly websites that are authoritative to a given Search Engine.

How do I know what people are looking for?

A lot of people jump into SEO and try to build sites and throw popular phrases into h1’s, titles, etc. It’s important to understand the industry you are in and do the research that is required to know what it is people are searching for, this is called keyword research. For example, the knowing that people search for “cars” rather than “automobile.” (yes, I know that’s a crude example, but, you get the point!). SEOBook has a Free Keyword Research Tool to do this for you.

What is a Search Friendly Website?

A search friendly website is a website that is built so that a Search Engine will index and crawl their content, while adding importance, relevance, and authority to that sites content. Many times organizations will make mistakes by building a flash site or an Ajax site that is entirely unable to be indexed or crawled by a “search engine spider.” There are tips and tricks on on how to build Ajax SEO Friendly websites out there.

Creating authority is the key to visibility!

At the end of the day, no matter how much you’ve researched the keywords and how great you’ve built out your site so it is search friendly, you need external links. Without links to your site from external resources, you will not rank nor get search traffic, bottom line. Getting links isn’t an easy job either, it is the crux of the SEO problem. (i.e. It’s why we get paid the big bucks!)

Building links is an interesting mix of many different cross-functional skills. Whether it is the sales pitch to websites asking for links, the biz dev angle of partnering with other sites or buying links (while, I would NEVER condone that, wink wink!), or the art of building buzz around your content, product, or service through the Social Web.

Social Media Visibility

Ah, Social Media, the buzzword amongst all buzzwords across the web now at days, it’s amazing how much it is talked about. Amazingly enough, Social Media has become a part of the general web presence and we are moving away from it being a piece of the business, so to speak, but rather, the a fully conversational and connected Social Web.

Okay okay, I’ll get to the point: Getting visibility via the Social Web is done by being conversational, engaging, and invoking emotions.

Social Media news sites like Digg

Creating content that creates a conversation around a particular topic, whether it is hilarious, sad, resourceful, etc. Creating content like this is all about invoking the emotions. You want to create content that a user is going to want to Digg. You want to have a page that is going to make someone stop while “stumbling” through your site. But, it doesn’t stop there is still another really important factor of gaining visibility:

If influencers within the Social Media space do not know about your content, then guess what, it is not going to be made visible. People and the masses follow the influencers (and I’m not just talking about twitter) by watching them and seeing what they are talking about, they create the “water cooler conversations.” It is similar to Search in that you need to build a site that the search engines can not only see, but is authoritative.

Create conversations and engagement about your brand

Remember those conversations that I talked about, well, pay attention, because the conversations are happening all across the Social Web. But, you can do things to create those conversations and create engagement that is tied to your brand or your site.

Be insightful, engaging, and provocative when creating a conversation

Don’t be a feed, creating a twitter account and throwing your RSS feed is not participating in the Social Web, it’s a feed and nothing else. You want to create a conversation, think of ways that you can create conversations about your brand. If you are a sports site, talk about upcoming events, like the NBA Draft. If you are a political opinions site, then you might want to ask questions on the Social Web about legislation and elections.

When you create conversations and people are engaging with you and your brand, then you are essentially creating visibility.

The Visibility of Trends

Since moving more into the Publishing and Media side of the business from E-Commerce and Product Centric websites, I’ve learned a ton around insights around trends. Understanding trends gives you insight into the topics that are “buzzing” around a certain category or vertical. You can use a tool like Google Insights to give you that knowledge.

So, you’re sitting there going, “great, who cares what is buzzing!?”…fine
, you probably aren’t. That said, this is extremely important to understand, because, creating content around these trends can create the Search and Social Media Visibility needed to grow your business.

Don’t be good, be GREAT!

Remember, your product or content will not survive on it’s sheer awesomeness (even though I’m sure it is!). Make sure that you are considering the visibility of your product and content: ONLY THEN, can your Product and Content be truly considered GREAT!

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.

Measuring success in SEO and Social Media by determining ROI, Analytics, Metrics up front

When you are working at an organization that doesn’t have the right analytics, its painful. This also goes for working with clients that don’t have the money to buy an analytics package like Omniture or WebTrends. I’ve been through this on both sides of the organizational and the client side as well. (A couple times it was even my fault! Ooops, my bad! ? ). It is important to understand that not providing metrics and/or reporting or being able to measure certain aspects of your job and/or client work is going to have a negative effect on your overall performance.

Before starting any project you’re going to be working, whether it’s on the In-House or Client side of things, you need to know goals. The most important thing that you can do for yourself and for your “client” is going to be figuring out the goals of any project you are working on. Is it ranking for a certain number of keywords? working on Brand or Reputation Management type things, or increasing traffic by a certain percentage?

Once you have determined those goals, start by figuring out what types of analytics and metrics you will need to measure to be successful in your campaigns. Here is a list of the items necessary.

Analytics:
There is absolutely no excuse now at days for not having any sort of analytics packages to use. There are free solutions like Google Analytics that has everything all the way through Advanced Segmentation, etc. to Omniture with tons of click funnel reporting and more.

Important Metrics:
Now that you have analytics setup, you need to define the common metrics that you will be reporting on. If you’re goal is to drive traffic to a specific part of the site, then you should have a saved query or report that you can click on and get to quickly to perform that task.

Also, define other important metrics or metrics that you find valuable to the current role/climit
– Time spent on site (per LP)
– Click thru Rate
– Bounce Rate
– Keyword by Landing PAge
– etc.

Dashboards:
If possible, you should setup dashboards that give you an overview of the quick and dirty statistics that you need for the week/month/year. If these are also a click away or triggered by email, then you are golden. This is really not a “crucial” element, but a nice to have.

Subscriptions:
RSS and Email subscription can be important numbers that you are looking at, especially if one of your many goals is to increase engagement. Feedburner does a good job of tracking RSS subscriptions and you can use other web services or email providers to track email subscription.

Social, Brand, and Reputation Monitoring:
If you are doing any Social Media or Brand Marketing and/or Reputation Management type work, you are going to want to setup the right type of alerts to monitor the brand and or key terms around your brand. Three tools that I use consistently are Google Alerts, TweetBeep, and Trackur.

Trending Metrics:
When doing any news related work you are going to want to monitor and measure the trends in the industry. You can do this by monitoring and reporting on Google Insights data for high trafficked terms around a particular event, date, etc. Also, if you are doing something that is going to “create buzz” or a “trending topic” then you are going to want to monitor that carefuly and report on this by showing the ability to create something that went “hot.”

Reporting:
You and your client or group have definied success metrics as I mentioned above at this point. Also, you should have great metrics and dashboards that measure that data. Now that you have all of that, use it to your advantage by creating reports using charts and graphs that show off the progress and/or lack of progress.

Create a reporting template and provide analysis:
You should start by creating a template for tracking this data and provide some sort of analysis. Sometimes having the data/charts in Excel and only rolling the charts into a powerpoint are a great way to provide analysis and value to just a chart, graph, or list of numbers in a table.

I’ve learned had tons of experience of looking like an idiot or losing income by not having the appropriate metrics and reporting in place for clients and internally at a company. But, I can tell you that there are also organizations out there that flat out don’t have this in place or won’t be able to put this into place, and, well, you’ll just have to deal with it. But, when that situation arises, make sure that you are upfront and straight forward about that and the situation it will cause. If you have done that, it will usually ready the client for the type of things that you will use to measure success.

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.

4 Main Reasons you should be linking in Blogs

We create blogs with tons of great content and we base our content on Social Media that attracts a link or two. (Boy, isn’t that the understatement of the year!) We rely on this content to create user engagement and get people to keep coming back. But something that is also just as important as creating great content, is knowing when to link to internal and external resources appropriately.

User Experiences and Topic Depth

Linking to external resources in blogs and articles creates that richer and more complete user experience. Doing so provides the user reading an article more depth and coverage on a topic or news item. Further expanding that, linking to external resources that cover multiple view points, opinions, etc. further validates the credibility of your blog. That is what you are going for, especially to first time readers. Establishing a sense of credibility and in-depth resources and/or content will create an authoritative presence for your blogs/articles.

Blogging Etiquette and Links

The blogosphere and social media circles can run pretty tight, but also be wound pretty darn tight as well. So, by never linking out or linking out, but slapping “nofollow” all over the place can create quite a stir. There is a certain level of etiquette that is expected within blogs/articles. Giving the resource you have linked to credit plays an important role in the level of respect given to your content. The last thing you want to be seen as is yet another site “Hoarding Link Juice.”

Pro Blogger has a great resource for this called The Etiquette of Linking.

Linking Internally

Internal linking is probably one of the most overlooked factors in blogging, but, it is also my favorite topic of discussion lately. Linking internally is not only highly useful to the user, but extremely important to search engine relevance. Since it is important to provide additional resources in the blog post/article, as mentioned above, it is an added benefit if you can link to your own resources. This is something that can be achieved by creating pattern matching systems in larger organizations. It can even be as simple as educating bloggers, writers, and editors to take a minute to link to internal resources.

Looking at an example, lets take a sports blog and an article that could be written about the recent injury to Kyle Orton on the Chicago Bears. Within that article you could link to the “Kyle Orton” bio page and the “Chicago Bears” team page. This is all kinds of SEO Hotness (yes, I just said that!) because you are creating relevance for search engines, since linking and the anchor text are important (if not the most important ranking factor). Internal Linking plays a major role in the overall Internal Link Architecture mix. But, to expand on that, this creates a wholistic user experience to resources that the reader could reference.

Getting Exposure

Finally, and most importantly, linking to external resources will get you more exposure because the blogosphere will notice when you link out, especially to their resources. If you are in a particular niche, you will notice that a lot of link love will be passed back and forth, once you start handing it out. The important thing to remember is that you want to be “top of mind” when bloggers/writers are looking for additional resources. Linking to external resources can do just that, because again, we track who links to us, at least I do. Now, I am not saying to have a free for all and just link to people in hopes that you’ll make yourself known. But what this does mean is that it is okay to link externally, because it will be appreciated by those that you link to. You never know who might reciprocate the link love and dish it right back to you by linking back to our content as a result.

Summary: Link…Link…Link

Link to external content to provide relevance and deeper resources. Follow “Blogger Etiquette” by linking externally and not “nofollowing” your entire site. Flow the link equity to deep content and relevant internal pages. And, finally, remember that linking to external resources will get you more exposure and keep you top of mind.

Need more information on linking for your business?! See my SEO Consulting Services page to get in touch with me about these services. Or, follow me on twitter to keep the conversation going!

AJAX and Non-JavaScript Experiences for SEO friendly websites

With the “Web 2.0” world that we live in, companies are inclined to create “snazzy” new AJAX experiences for users. I have been dubbing this the AJAX Dilemma lately because organizations/companies/website owners are creating sites that are not accessible and SEO friendly. They are risking crippling their businesses in the areas of search traffic by not planning SEO into the lifecycle of the product. Ensuring there is a Non-Javascript experience for search engines and accessibility is not a new practice. Creating sites using “Progressive Enhancement” and using “Unobtrusive JavaScript” has been around for quite some time.By creating web standard code and using the methods above, you are not sacrificing SEO for User Experience.

This is important to creating search friendly websites because ensurng search engines are able to crawl and index your content is necessary to acquiring search traffic and market share. By not embracing these approaches, you are leaving yourself in a handicap for SEO efforts and leaves you at a competitive disadvantage. In fact, it should not even just be designed on a project per project basis, but should be built into code that takes advantage of web standards and progressive enhancement.

The AJAX Dilemma for SEO

Show and Hide type interactions that are used in content areas throughout a site, like tabs or accordions, can create a crippling effect on the amount of content crawled by search engines, if they are not built correct. This content is typically built with poorly written JavaScript that does not take advantage of Web Standard code. The hidden content areas, when clicked on, will provide a string that follows the URL like, #somehiddencontent. Traditionally search engines ignore everything after the “#” (hash) tag.

Here are some examples of these interactions that are poorly written and don’t provide a graceful fail when JavaScript is turned off.

Notice something different? Of course you do, it is VERY blatantly obvious that the entire content within the tabs is completely missing. This is a large opportunity that is missed by ifoodstv.com at getting content not only indexed, but great internal links to deep content.

Now, taking a look at the way that iMedix does tabs is a little different, here it is with JavaScript on:

Here it is with JavaScript Off, on a different tab:

Do you notice a difference here at all? No?! Well, thats right, because there isn’t one.

Also, to add to that, iMedix is rewriting URLs so that there are no hash tags in the URLs:

This is a fantastic job of ensuring that there is not only crawlable content, but crawlable URLs. This is very important, search engines tend to ignore things after hash tags (#) in URLs. This is especially impotant with AJAX since that is typically how urls are created. Jeremy Keith (JavaScript expert extraordinaire) has described some ways to get around the AJAX issues, including has tags, and has described it as Hijax.

The Solution

The solution to creating AJAX that is SEO friendly is to ensure that you are building your site using Progressive Enhancement and Unobtrusive JavaScript. Along with that, url issues that could lead to canonicalization and duplicate content issues can be avoided using methods like Hijax. With the extremely competitive markets out there on the web, this is VERY important. It is possible to create rich user experiences with Ajax that are great for SEO.

As an example of how to do this, you can build standard interactions on your site that are accessible and search friendly. (This is how we built any standard interaction at PayPal). Any standard show/hide type interaction can be built using standardized JavaScript APIs. Doing this will create Non-JavaScript versions of interactions that are accessible and search friendly, but along with that will drastically reduce the amount of code that you have to write and increase developer efficiency.

Resources to help with AJAX and SEO

Google Webmaster Central: A spiders view of Web 2.0
Dom Scripting: Hijax
Progressive Enhancement with AJAX

Follow us on Twitter for more information at @visiblefactors

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