The SEO tool space is a pretty crowded one (and growing one!). Tools are helpful, there is no doubt about that. However, tools are generally only as good as the person using them. We’d love to know what tools you use and why, so please let us know in the comments after the post
I am not “house” handy by any means, I can barely hang a picture frame straight. So if you gave me the best construction tools in the world I’d still make extra holes and screw something up.
Even if I managed to get the picture hung correctly, it certainly would not look professional.
You can buy as many guides, tools, and accessories as you like but in the end it is your skill that determines the success or failure of a project (building a deck or building a website). Skills can be harnessed, but tools do not overcome a lack of skill.
SEO tool fatigue is a real issue for some folks. Some people spend a good chunk of their productivity on testing or trying out new tools, or even using so many tools that their implementation and interpretation of data suffers a great deal. One tool says this, another says that, and yet another says 1 or the other or both or neither .
The first thing to realize is that most of the data from tools (excluding analytics and such) are basically estimates of estimated data, or are directly from Google’s various estimation-type tools (Keyword Tool, Trends, Insights, and so on), or driven off what the tool builder thinks are important or reliable metrics to build your research off of (there tends to be some swings and misses with that type of approach).
You are not going to fail miserably if you decide not to do days and days and days of keyword research with multiple tools and then spending more days comparing different datasets. Research is important, but there is a limit.
From a cost and time standpoint I’ve found it really helpful to pick a core set of tools and stick with them rather than bouncing around to get an extra feature or two.
It’s good to peek around from time to time but using mostly similar tools can lead to a “needle in the haystack” approach; where you spend most of your time digging a time-suck hole rather than building websites and adjusting strategies based on analytics and/or AdWords data.
Again, research is important but there is a sweet spot and it’s a good idea to get some kind of system down so you can focus on doing “enough” research without doing harm to the time it takes you to get sites up and running.
I’m going to highlight some of the tools I’ve used below, most of which are considered to be market leaders. I’ll point out why I use certain tools, why I don’t use others (yet) and I encourage anyone who’s dealing with tool overload to do the same for the tools you use.
The areas I’ll be focusing on are:
There are many keyword research tools that pull data from the sources listed below (like our free keyword research tool, which pulls from Wordtracker).
These tools use their own databases (although in Wordtracker you can ping Google’s tool as well).
I use all the Google tools as well as Ad Intelligence and Wordtracker as well as the SeoBook Keyword Tool. Sometimes I use Wordtracker just via our keyword research tool and sometimes I use Wordtracker’s web interface (I like being able to store stuff in there).
Our keyword tool also links in to most of the sources listed above. A big reason why I like our keyword research tool is that it’s super easy to hit the major data points I want to hit on a particular keyword from one location.
Ad Intelligence is solid as (Microsoft claims) they incorporate actual search data into their results, rather than estimating like Google does.
I should also note that I mainly use Trends and Insights for comparing similar keywords and looking at locality (in addition to the history of keywords). Sometimes you run across really similar keywords (car, auto) and it can help to know which one is most relevant to your campaign.
For the on page stuff I’m mainly concerned with large scale, high level overviews.
I use our toolbar for specific on-page stuff but when I’m looking to diagnose internal linking problems (not maximizing internal link flow, broken links, http status codes, and so on) or issues with title tags and meta descriptions either missing, being too short, or too long, or duplication then I use a couple different tools.
Since I’m on a Mac and I don’t care to run Windows for anything other than testing, I use the three listed which work on Mac (though I don’t use them in every situation).
I use Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider pretty frequently as well as Peacock’s Integrity. Integrity is a broken link checker while SEO Spider incorporates other SEO related features (title tags, H1/H2′s, anchor text, and a ton of other important elements).
WebSite Auditor offers most, if not all, of what SEO Spider does but also incorporates white-label reporting, Google Page Rank, Yahoo! & Google Link popularity, cache dates, and so on.
For some of those features in Website Auditor you might want to either outsource the Captcha inputting or use their Anti-Captcha service so you don’t have to sit there for hours entering in captcha’s.
In my regular workflow, SEO Spider and Integrity get used a lot and Website Auditor comes in to play for some of those other metrics and for white label reporting.
Here’s a crowded space! So I think the right choice here really depends on your needs. Are you a solo SEO who runs multiple sites, or maybe you run your own sites and client sites, or maybe you are a client-only shop.
Here are some of the main players in this space:
Even if you have reporting needs, you can still do a lot for free with our free rank checking tool (scheduled reports, stored reports, multiple search engines, and so on) and Excel or another spreadsheet program like OpenOffice.Org or Google Docs. Some good tips on creating ranking charts with Excel can be found here.
There are a couple differences with the software players, Advanced Web Ranking and Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker (both have multiple levels so it’s wise to check the features of both to see if you need the higher end version or if the lower priced versions will work for you). Some of the key differences are:
One tip with software tools is to run them on a different machine, perhaps even behind an IP off of a private VPN service like WiTopia, and think about utilizing multiple proxies from a service like Trusted Proxies and/or using an anti-captcha service with Link Assistant’s tools.
The idea is to not get your IP banned and to let you continue to work as normal on your main machine while another machine is handling the automated queries. If you don’t want to fuss with that, you might want to try a cloud app.
The 3 main services, that I’ve used anyway, come from Raven, SeoMoz, and Authority Labs. Authority Labs now powers Raven’s SERP tracker too. My biggest concern with cloud-based rank checkers is that the keyword volume can be (understandably) limited. Now, Authority Labs has unlimited checking at 450/month but the other two have limits.
Let’s just look at the highest plans for a second, Moz allows 30 campaigns and a total of 3,500 keywords. Raven’s highest plan allows for unlimited domains and 2,500 keywords total (and 200 competitors).
If scalability is a concern for you then you might be better off with software solutions. Once you start running multiple sites or are responsible for reporting on multiple sites (and you are working the long tail and your analytics) then you can see how restrictive this could become.
Of course, comparing just the rank checking options of a tool set like Raven and Moz (which both have other useful tools, Raven more so for full on campaign management) doesn’t do the pricing justice. So what you could do is still use the many other tools available from each company and use a software solution once your rank checking scales beyond what they offer.
Both Moz and Raven integrate with Google Analytics, and Raven’s campaign integration with GA is quite nice too (beyond just rankings).
Free tools like Yahoo!’s Site Explorer, search query tools like Solo SEO’s link search tool and Blekko’s link data are nice but at some point in your SEO career you’ll might have to get on board with a more advanced link research tool or tools to get the data you need to compete in competitive SERPS.
A good chunk of software-based solutions pull link data from search engines but if you want a more, way more, comprehensive view of a competing site’s link profile (and link history) you do have a few options.
Majestic was originally known for having a much deeper database, with the caveat that they keep a lot of decayed links, and their UI wasn’t overly impressive. Well, as noted in a recent blog post (which includes 20% off coupons) on Majestic’s new tools, most of that isn’t the case anymore. Though, I still feel Open Site Explorer has a better and smoother UI.
Advanced Link Manager’s strength lies in their ongoing link management and reporting but they also have some decent link research tools built in and they can connect to SeoMoz’s API to gather link data, so that kind of sets them apart from those other software-based solutions.
Again, Moz offers other tools as well so it’s hard to really compare price points. What I like about OSE is that you can get a really solid, quick overview of the anchor text profile of a competing site. Also, you get unlimited look ups and up to 10k links per query on their pro plan (in addition to other Moz tools). You can get a 30 day free trial of all the Moz tools as of this writing.
Majestic, now with their new site explorer and fresh index, rival OSE’s UI and freshness a bit but there still are limits on usage. You can check out Majestic’s pricing here and don’t forget about the 20% off coupon mentioned here.
Typically I like to use both Majestic and OSE. I like the new tools Majestic has come out with and their historical data is solid. OSE, for me, is great for getting some of a site’s top metrics quickly (anchor text, top pages, etc).
If I had to pick one, I’d go with Majestic mostly because Moz gives a decent amount of data away for free (being a registered user) and because Majestic has really good historical + deeper data.
Building links, especially if you have a team, can be a cumbersome process unless you have collaborative tools to work with. Even if you operate mostly on your own, you might want to track links you’ve earned or built directly.
Every once and awhile i like to download a report from Majestic SEO and add any links that are not yet in my tracking program into the program. Some people like to just track paid or exchanged links and let the natural ones sort of come and go naturally.
There are a couple of tools out there that I’ve used, and one I haven’t but I’ve heard good things about it from reputable sources so I’ll include it here.
Raven’s Link Manager is probably their flagship tool. It has received really high praise from experienced SEO’s and is easy to use. You can easily add links, assign them to employees, and let Raven worry about the automatic checking and reporting in case something changes with a link.
Advanced Link Manager has many features built in but you can use it just for tracking links you want to track by uploading the links into the program. It’s software based and you can set it to run whenever you’d like, automatically.
I personally haven’t used Buzzstream, but reputable people have told me it is a solid program, and they have a free 14 day trial here. It’s a dedicated link building and management tool (and also has a PR and social media tool) so chances are if you are looking for a specific tool to fill that need, this one might be worth a shot.
If you don’t have a ton of links to manage or a team to manage, you might be just fine with an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Doc. To me, it’s just one more thing to think about and Raven and Buzzstream have low priced plans if you don’t need enterprise-level storage.
So there’s an overview of what I feel are the best SEO tools out there and one’s that I use frequently (or infrequently).
I’d love to know what you are using and why (or why not?)
by Stoney deGeyter
In the last post, we started crafting our story by looking at some basic writing and optimization necessities. As we finish up this section, we’ll look more at the content itself and how you can improve it for a better searcher and reader experience.
I talked a bit about integrating keywords into your content in the last post, but let’s provide a little more background and context for how best to do that and what, exactly, it means.
Search engines don’t read. They are not really looking for “keywords” as we seem to think, but instead they look for word duplication and context similarities on any given page. The search engines see a bunch of words, and within that content a few repeated words stand out. This gives the search engines clues as to what the topic of the page might be.
But when you add too many topics (keywords) to a page, the search engines can become confused. Or, actually, the topic becomes diluted and makes it difficult for the search engines to determine exactly what the page topic might be.
However, if all your keywords are variations of your primary page topic, you can see how the search engines really begin to understand the topic of the page because all the other keywords and content reinforce that particular topic.
The moral of the story here is to make sure your content is focused on a topic and use only keywords that reinforce that topic. You can target a lot of keywords on a single page, provided you keep those keywords tightly focused together.
Images can greatly enhance your content and improve its readability. While your content can be intellectually interesting, images make it visually appealing. Look at the difference between the recipes site shown in the image above and the one below:
Using images can make quite a difference, much like the difference between walking into a restaurant and smelling the scent of the table cleaner versus smelling a sizzling steak on the grill. The food may taste the same, but one of those two restaurants will have far more appeal than the other.
Because web content is no longer static, but it all has (or should have) a social element to it, it is increasingly important to go beyond just adding images to your content, whenever possible. Photos in particular add the capability of creating a social component to any valuable piece of content.
Integrating your photos to or from Facebook or Flickr, or other social photo services, allows for increased interaction and tie-ins from a number of different areas where your audience might be lurking. One of the goals of social content is to reach your audience where they are, not where you think they are (or should be). By using photo integration, you are not only making your content more visually appealing, but allowing your audience to find you wherever they socialize.
Video is huge online. Google’s YouTube is the second most used search engine. People spend hours every week watching videos online in favor of traditional media entertainment. But, not only are they using video to entertain themselves, they are looking to video as a way to learn.
Search “how to” anything on YouTube and you’re likely to find a video on that topic. When you do a search on Google, if they have any videos that they feel are relevant, they’ll include those in the search results along with standard web pages. Video gives you additional avenues to be explored and possibly incorporated.
Any opportunity you have to include video in your content should be grabbed. Especially if it’s your own video. However, even if you use someone else’s video, integrating it into your content can provide additional context or clarity, and bolster your content’s readability.
Not everyone will take the time to watch a video, but providing the option for those that will reaches out to a new segment of your audience. Plus, you still have the written content for everybody else!
Once you have people’s eyes on your content, what now? Do they just read and go about their merry way? Or do you have something that you want them to do? Aside from the call to action that should be on the page, you might also want to speak to those that are not yet convinced or ready to take action. The best way to do this is to add links to other pages of your website.
Links provide a way for visitors to continue to engage with your website without having to “figure out” where they should go or what they should do to get more information. If you mention something in your content that is further explained somewhere else, link to it! If you have a resource that backs up your claims, link to it! If you mention an organization that re-reinforces your claims of superiority, link to that, too!
Links also provide a great way to add optimization into your content. Every linked “keyword” to another page gives the search engines an additional clue as to what that linked page is about. So don’t ever use “click here” as your link text; instead, use the keywords relevant to the page being linked to.
The more links you have, the more traffic you can drive to other areas of your site. Without those links, you may be losing visitors that otherwise might remain engaged. However, there does come a point when you can have too many links!
People from every segment of your audience are going to have specific ways they interact with your content. Some people are scanners, and some are readers. Some are visual, and some are intellectual. Some want depth, and others want to keep it light and easy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide a method of interaction for (almost) everyone!
The three key areas to focus on to please as many people as possible are: how it looks visually, how it reads textually and what it says semantically.
Visually: If you strip everything out of your web page but the content, how does it look? Do you just have a bunch of words broken into paragraphs? Or do you integrate elements that make your content more digestible? Simply adding paragraph headings, bullet points, links and bolding key concepts can make your content much easier to read, scan and digest. Look for opportunities to break your content into smaller bites.
Textually: Keep your content focused on your point. Try not to meander, unless its done strategically. Make sure you speak in terms of how your customers will benefit rather than about how great you are. Writing from the customer’s point of view can go a long way to persuading them you have what they need. When necessary, link to supporting information, even if it isn’t on your site. Third-party verification reinforces your value.
Semantically: Keywords are your audience’s language. Use them. Keep your writing active rather than passive. This keeps the reader engaged and ready to take the next action possible. Be sure to include calls to action that reinforce the next step in the process. For some that’s a conversion, but for others that’s simply more information. Use multiple forms of call to action to keep the reader engaged.
See all posts in this series:
Part 1: Intro / How Print Audience Differs from Web Audience
Part 2: Goals of Online PR
Part 3: Background Research
Part 4a: Crafting the Story p1
Part 4b: Crafting the Story p2
Part 5: Broadcasting the Message / Conclusion
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As we noted recently, a fairly substantial startup called Huddle (with $14.2m in VC) has been legally pondering the part of the new Google+ service also called Huddle. Essentially, Huddle.com is about group messaging and collaboration in an enterprise sense. Google+’s Huddle is a group texting app available to consumer Android users.
Today Huddle.com released a blog post outlining its feelings on the matter. They also told us their lawyers have sent a letter to Google, but had not yet had a response. They went on to say:
Mark Zuckerberg may be the most followed user on Google+, but good luck trying to find any of your Facebook friends on Google’s new social service. Facebook is making it difficult for anyone to import their friend contact information into Google+. There is no direct contact import feature such as there is for Yahoo or Hotmail, and Facebook is clamping down on third-party services that made it easy to bring your Facebook friends into Google+.
Over the weekend, Facebook blocked a Google Chrome extension called the Facebook Friend Exporter. And in fact, Facebook changed its OAuth 2.0 API in such a way that it “suddenly removed email addresses from the queries without warning,” says Owen Mundy, creator of Give Me My Data. Other data can still be exported, just not your friends’ email addresses.
There still might be one back door open to sneak your Facebook friends into Google+. And that’s Yahoo. You can import your Facebook friends’ contact information, including emails, just fine into Yahoo. (First, you link your Facebook and Yahoo accounts, and then you import your contacts from Yahoo Mail).
I say “might” because I just tried it, and the Yahoo importer in Google+ didn’t even work for me in Chrome. But it did seem to work in Firefox (irony alert). Still, I couldn’t tell if it had actually imported my Facebook friends who are also on Google+ because most of those are also duplicated in my Gmail contacts. Other Facebook friends do not show up in Google+ (although their email addresses imported just fine into Yahoo).
While we’ve seen Facebook play these tricks before because they don’t want to help jumpstart competing services, I don’t really think it’s that big a deal. In this case, your email contacts alone (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail) should be enough to get anyone going on Google+. Your real friends are in both Facebook and Gmail, not to mention your other more occasional contacts, which you can start placing in different circles.
Although Facebook’s shenanigans aren’t good from the point of view of data portability, on the whole I think this is actually a good thing for Google+. If it were too easy to import your Facebook friends, then Google+ would simply become a Facebook clone, replicating your Facebook experience. By forcing you to create a new social graph from the ground up, Google+ has a greater chance of becoming distinct.
Posted by willcritchlow
Question and answer content has been around on the internet a lot longer than the web. From the early days of usenet (and before that, on prehistoric technologies that came before my time) people have been asking experts for answers. You can’t fail to have noticed, however, that it has resulted in some of the lowest quality content on the web. For far too many questions, the ranking answer is Yahoo! Answers (or similar) that looks as though it was written by someone who found writing YouTube comments too intellectually challenging:
Incidentally, note that there is a Yahoo! Answers API which can be a great source of data for keyword research and content inspiration.
There is a clear need and opportunity for this kind of content. Many users search in question format:
unfortunately not quite enough to support the venerable Ask Jeeves that encouraged this behaviour
There are clearly a lot of commercially-oriented queries in there. You only have to look at many of the kinds of questions people ask on Twitter to see this:
You can see the attraction to search engines of indexing Q&A content. While they have made leaps forward in natural language processing, they are still dumb text query engines at heart and having both the question and the answer in plain text on the page clearly supports them in providing efficient answers to many natural language queries.
My favourite example of the right way of doing things is Stackoverflow. If you have ever tried to do anything related to programming, you will have hit annoying issues very early on. At Distilled we have labelled most programming as "copy, paste, swear, fix typo".
If you’re anything like me, RTFM might as well stand for JFGI these days and you will Just Google It(TM) straight away. As soon as you do this (certainly in recent months), odds are you are going to land on Stackoverflow. The answer you find there is likely to be helpful, authoritative and on you go. But how did it get that way? Stackoverflow is clearly good for search engines, but it got that way by being great for users. If anything, the experience of asking a question and getting it answered is even more impressive than just seeing the repository of brilliant answers that already exist.
Even really annoying basic questions get quick, patient answers
So what did they do so right?
Avoid many versions of the same question
The issue of multiple almost-identical threads is so prevalent on most Q&A sites that Google has evolved a UX pattern specifically for this:
Stackoverflow gets around this with a many-pronged attack:
Get good answers, fast
From what I’ve read the biggest KPIs for the Stackoverflow team are proportion of questions with accepted answers and the speed of answer. Indeed these are high on the list of metrics to consider before opening a bring q&a site out of beta. I love the data-driven attitude and transparency they show – this is a post about bringing the home improvement forum out of beta:
It’s interesting to think about how they have designed a site and a community to achieve great results on this front. In my opinion, a large part of it stems from having nailed the incentives – in particular:
It’s no secret that people love points, awards and power. The game mechanics built into stackoverflow bring all of these things:
I’ve only got a handful of stackoverflow badges so far. Maybe I’m immune to their wily ways?
If you can, build from a passionate community
In the case of Stackoverflow, they built from a bunch of overlapping groups of passionate users (as I understand it, based largely on the personal clout of Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood). In the case of the SEOmoz Q&A forum, it’s obviously benefiting greatly from the community on the blog etc.
Stackoverflow solves the moderation problem in one way. Quora is tackling it in a different but fascinating way:
We have been doing a lot of thinking about the possibilities in this space – and what happens when you get it right. When Tom was at SEOmoz (before heading to NYC), one of the things he pushed hard was to add many of these features to the Q&A forum:
Ask an Owner
I have also been working with one of our UK clients, Reevoo, on a new feature they call "Ask an Owner" that enables retailers and manufacturers to allow potential buyers to ask questions of those who already own a product. By allowing those retailers and manufacturers to expose that content to search engines, we hope to access some relatively untapped areas. Reevoo already provide review functionality for many top retailers and brands and they are seeing some phenomenal stats on the new Ask an Owner service in terms of questions being answered, % of good answers etc.
It is amazing how many relatively sensible questions still have no content indexed e.g. "Does the HP probook 4320s support skype video calling?" you can work out the answer from many of the resulting pages if you know what to look for, but wouldn’t it be great if there was a page with that title and body content including something like: "Yes. There is an in-built webcam that works very well in reasonable lighting conditions. As with many laptops, it’s built into the top of the screen which makes for natural conversations as you automatically look roughly at the camera as you speak. The built in microphone is also good enough in quiet conditions. For more serious use, you should consider a stand-alone microphone." That’s the kind of content that should be generated by "ask an owner" style functionality.
If you happen to want to know more about ask an owner and our general views on UGC in retail, you can check out the whitepaper I wrote on the subject (registration required).
The investment community got all excited about Q&A sites last year and pumped loads of money into Quora and the like. The reasons they got excited are similar to the reasons I believe there is untapped SEO potential here, but I also think there is significant value for many smaller businesses even in things that wouldn’t get investors hot under the collar.
Today is a US holiday and I’m also not in the UK office. As a result I may be slow to jump back into the comments below, but don’t let that stop you sharing your thoughts. I’ll join in when I can!
Thanks to all our members who have spent many countless hours in the Q&A Forum answering questions for other members! The amount of knowledge that gets shared in there is amazing!
Oxford Dictionary has started including words related to the internet.
Words such as "trackpad" (touchpad) OMG (Oh My God), LOL (Laugh Out Loud), sexting, and others were added. Though it is not known how the general public will react to this new inclusion, experts from Oxford Dictionaries say that the influence of the internet on the English Language is increasing. Other words that have been added are onliner (an internet user) and other internet related words that are commonly used such as "cybersecurity".
In the beginning of June, more internet related words such as "twittersphere" and "newb" were added. Twittersphere refers to a group of people sharing a post in Twitter and newb is short for newbie. More such terms will probably be added in the future and test English Language's flexibility.
What makes email, Facebook, and Google so valuable? Answer: Visiting them is largely unprompted, notwithstanding the synapses that fire in your brain that make you check your email, your Facebook feed, or decide to research something on Google. In other words, people pull content themselves, rather than having that content be pushed — or foisted — upon them.
The best way of looking at consumer web applications is as a complex stack of “pulls” and “pushes.” Lest these terms be confused with an earlier generation of push: a “pull” is an unsolicited action by a consumer, whereas a “push” is a solicitation by a seller/producer. The consumer ultimately “pulls” from a mobile phone or computer. Everything else is “pushed” to the consumer, through ads, e-mails or other marketing efforts from companies eager to get business and traffic.
The greatest trick that Facebook ever “pulled” was transforming itself from a push platform (dependent on email to woo users back) into a de facto pull platform. Facebook touts that 50%+ of its users log-in every day, and my guess is that the vast majority do so with no prompting. Push is still valuable but simply complements the massive pull that Facebook has developed.
Why is Pull so essential for a web company? The intersecting forces of human psychology and economics.
First, psychology: consider how most people hate being “sold” to. “Being sold to” is a form of push. Consumers get hundreds of unsolicited offers and emails pushed to them every week. They learn to tune these solicitations out, especially if they are not in a buying mindset. Relevance is a function of offer-consumer fit paramaterized by time.
Second, economics: A pull platform doesn’t need to spend any money to reach or acquire customers; a push platform does. Facebook’s marketing spend per user has to be the lowest of any company known to man. Granted, Facebook is intrinsically viral and laden with network effects, but the unprompted pull phenomenon has been crucial to Facebook’s dominance.
The value of pull is not just for consumer companies. Any Business-to-Business company knows the value of “demand generation”: catalyzing a “pull” by customers. The quickest and cheapest sales cycles start with a pull by the prospective customer.
For any web company, fostering Pull is essential to creating value and engagement. There is no shortage of great applications and amazing technologies which stagnate due to a lack of pull. But the greatest economic achievement of being a “pull” platform is in becoming the mechanism by which “push” companies must engage with audiences, paying handsomely to do so. This expectation is why a company like Twitter can be valued in the billions with minimal revenue.
Here are some ways of thinking about fostering pull:
Plan Around Events
Groupon Now is Groupon’s attempt to add Pull to its traditionally Push service. I want to eat, where do I go? Groupon. Every human desire has a natural pull tendency. Being the “first responder” to a human desire is incredibly valuable.
Find Offline Analogies
Most forms of pull fit a predefined social pattern, per the comment on “human desire” above. Before Google, people used phone books (unprompted) to find services. Before email, people would check their postal mailbox, generally at a given time (after the mail was delivered).
Answer Recurring Questions
There are certain types of content that consumers will invariably pull (or want pushed to them). These types of content generally answer recurring questions of a consumer. How much did I spend Receipts, bank websites)? Where am I going (Google Maps)? How do I get there (Kayak)? What’s wrong with me (webMD)?
Build Brand and Familiarity
Once one of the above is satisfied, brand and credential storage foster pull. A frictionless and “known” experience catalyze pull for transactional activities. While Amazon, as the largest spender on Google, does a fair amount of push, they also benefit from a tremendous amount of pull when consumers decide to shop. This is a combination of the brand but also their accumulation of user/payment credentials.
There is no substitute for pull in establishing success for a web company; the key is producing something sufficiently valuable in repeat interactions. Reid Hoffman has noted that “social networks do best when they tap into one of the seven deadly sins.” It’s no coincidence that people have, unprompted, “pulled” those sins since the dawn of humanity.
Yikes. Users of fitness and calorie tracker Fitbit may need to be more careful when creating a profile on the site. The sexual activity of many of the users of the company’s tracker and online platform can be found in Google Search results, meaning that these users’ profiles are public and searchable. You can click here to access these results.
As you may know, the Fitbit Tracker is an compact wearable device that clips onto clothing or slips into a pocket and captures, through accelerometer technology, information about daily health activities, such as steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, exercise intensity levels and sleep quality. Users can also log nutrition, weight, additional activities (including sexual activity) and other health information on the site in order to gain a complete picture of their health.
So why are Fitbit users’ profiles able to be searchable in Google? It’s not really Fitbit’s fault. When you create a profile, the default privacy setting allows profiles to be found in search results (Google, Bing, etc). If you don’t unclick this setting, it will obviously make your profile public for anyone to find.
So these users may be unwittingly sharing their most intimate details (i.e. kissing, hugging and more) when recording their sexual activity to calculate how many calories they have burned in a given period of time.
Of course, sex does count as exercise, but you might want to think twice before recording it on Fitbit and making your profile open to the public (TMI, anyone?). And to mitigate this issue, perhaps Fitbit should change its privacy defaults.
Thanks to Andy Baio for the tip.
Posted by Aaron Wheeler
We’ve all been in difficult interview situations – you get a hard question and go on and on and on without giving a solid answer. In our realm, though, there are some SEO best practices that are so well established that everyone should know and be able to describe them to other people. If you’re a business looking to hire an SEO (in-house, contractor, or otherwise), there’s no better way to gauge an SEO’s abilities than to ask them about basic SEO definitions and strategies. Similarly, SEOs looking for work should be prepared for a comprehensive interview that tests both their knowledge and their creative abilities. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand talks about some of the questions that might come up in interviews for SEO positions and how to answer them (as well as discussing why interviewees should ask these questions). Have a good question for interviewers? Let us know in the comments!
Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about SEO interview questions, how there are a lot of times in your professional life when you’re going to be either interviewing someone who might be working with you on an SEO team inside your company, who might be contracting for you, perhaps a consultant, you’re interview someone, you’re the CMO or the VP of marketing and you want to know who all these SEO people know their stuff. It can actually be kind of tough to know what questions to ask unless you’ve got some background experience. Likewise if you are someone who might be interviewing for an SEO position, if you’re someone who is a consultant and might be talking to some clients and you want to be prepared for the questions that they’re going to throw at you, this Whiteboard Friday is for you.
So in the SEO interview process, the questions that I would ask, these are very SEO specific ones. So in every interview, particularly when you’re bringing someone on to your team, you’re going to asking questions about cultural fit and background and their biography, like what have they done in their past. Are they going to be a good fit for your team? Are they going to be able to handle the responsibilities? Does their work/life balance work with sort of organization you’ve got? I’m not going to talk about that stuff. I am going to talk about the very specific knowledge kinds of things that you want to use with an SEO or that you want to be prepared for as an SEO when you’re going into these types of discussions.
So the first general section, the section that I start with is general knowledge. This is a great way to feel out whether someone is comfortable and capable. I would use these, honestly if we were doing this, I would be using these on phone screens or maybe even in the interview process, like right in the form field just to get a sense, like, "Does this person have a good sense of SEO? Do they know things like, what’s a rel=canonical? What does it do? How does it work? How do search engines treat the meta refresh? What’s an image title versus an alt attribute?" So you’ve got different properties of a particular graphic or an image, and you want to know that the SEO person understands. "Yeah, I know that image title describes the image, but it isn’t necessarily being used by search engines to the same degree that the alt attribute is. It doesn’t show up when you hover in Firefox. It’s not going to become the image label in Google image search, those kinds of things, versus the alt attribute that gets used as anchor text when the image links off to somewhere. So those kinds of things.
You might even have a question like, "How do you remove personalization from search results?" What you want to see is somebody goes, "Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s google.com/search?Q=whatever the search term is &pws=0." You find someone who can write off search strings and tell you, "How do I change the country language code?" "Well, you just add in &gl=uk. To get the UK or ‘us’ to get the US." You want to see that sort of knowledge that indicates that they’re really deep into the process of doing SEO. They live and breathe this stuff. They know it like the back of their hand. That’s what you want to see from an SEO, and this general knowledge section is a great way to get a sense of that.
Now next up, I like to get a little deeper and understand a person’s thought process and be able to explain your thought process to somebody else. That’s why we have a section on strategy and tactics. So this is asking questions that will elicit a response that indicates to you how well this person can really do the functions of SEO. A lot of this general knowledge stuff they should have a good background, but if they miss a few of these questions, it’s fine. They can always go learn them. They can go look them up. They’ll figure it out, it’s okay. But you really want to know things like, "Do they understand how to run a keyword research campaign? Do they understand how to run link building? Do they understand what’s involved in a content strategy? What does that mean? It doesn’t just mean a blog, does it?" It’s all sorts of different things.
So I like asking broad questions like, "How would you create a site to rank for give them a keyword or a set of keywords?" Like, "I am getting into the men’s fashion industry. Just imagine for me, brainstorm with me a site that’s going to perform really well in men’s fashion." And if you hear things like, "Well, I would like to build a site that naturally incents lots of creators, lots of designers of clothing, and lots of brands to put their stuff on our site. So it will be a big important site where lots of people will come to. They’ll put their stuff up and they’ll essentially promote it for us, but we have a lot of unique form fields and unique content that they have to fill out so that the content itself is unique and it doesn’t just look like the manufacturer’s suggested description across everything else, because we don’t want to have duplicate content problems." That’s shows some level of depth in terms of thinking. It gives you a sense of how they’ll tackle problems.
You can ask questions like, "What are some of your favorite scalable link building tactics?" And if they say something like, "Well, I really like contacting webmasters." No, like, "Nope, you’re clearly missing this word scalable and also probably favorite, because nobody really likes contacting webmasters." That’s the least fun part the SEO’s link building job. But if they say things like, "Well, I really like building up popular social accounts," or, "I like running a blog and building up content to attract a community," those are pretty good answers. If they say things like, "I really think that content syndication or image licensing or badges and embeddable widgets is a great link building strategy that’s scalable," those are great answers. You want to hear that kind of stuff.
"How would you get video content into Google?" More of a tactical question, but it gives you a sense of some of the knowledge and then how they do it. So if you hear a question like that and the person gives you a response and they say, "Well, Google has this video protocol." All right, they do, Google does have a video protocol. But what you really want to hear is, "Oh, it’s great! What I like to do is make content using YouTube or Wistia or Vimeo," or whatever it is, whatever their preferred video hosting service of choice is and let them tell you why that is, "and then embed it on our pages and we use the video XML sitemaps feed to send to Google so that appears as rich snippets in the search results." Perfect, this person clearly understands the tactical knowledge, and maybe they don’t even know how to craft it. I don’t know how to write a video XML sitemap. I couldn’t start writing you the protocols from scratch, but I can go find it online and copy what Google suggests it needs to be. I just need to have the knowledge of how to do that.
So that strategy and tactics section, also really important.
Last up. I do like to ask about some tools and metrics because this can give you a great sense of both an SEO’s depth as well as they way they think about a lot of problems. Because the field of SEO, granted, is some art, some science, and a lot of research and learning and trying new things, the tools and metrics, the statistics that we use, the correlation data kinds of things, the link data that comes out of Yahoo Site Explorer, or Bing Webmaster tools, or the Google link command, or Exalead, or Majestic SEO, or SEOmoz, you want to know that they’ve got a good grasp on, "Oh, here’s all the ways that I could potentially get that data and here’s why I like this one and I don’t like this one. I like the Bing or the MSN Ad Center or the keyword tool. I don’t like the Google keyword tool. I really don’t like some keyword tool here, but I think Keyword Spy’s great or SpyFu is awesome," or whatever it is. And you want to know, not just what those tools are, but how do they evaluate them.
That gives you a really good sense for how that person thinks about problems, how they’re going to attack things, whether they’re a critical thinker or whether they just take things on face value, which in the SEO world is not a great idea. Like even the things that I might be telling you on Whiteboard Fridays, you probably want to verify for yourself. So things like, "What data would you use to use to judge the value of a link?" And you want to hear things like, "Well, I’d try and gets some metrics around how important the domain is, how important that specific page is. I’d try and get some metrics about where is that link going to be placed, what sort anchor text will it use, how many other links are on that page, where do they point to, or they spammy or manipulative, or are they good and authentic?" Those kinds of things. "What tools do you use to measure competitors’ keywords and traffic?" And if they tell you, "Well, I really like this SpyFu or KeyCompete, or some of these other ones, Compete.com has a competitive intelligence tool. Hitwise has one, very enterprise level." Hey, yeah, those are good ways to measure keywords.
On the traffic question, if they say, "Well, I really like, Alexa." I’d be like, "You do? Why do you like Alexa? What do you find useful about it?" There are good answers, which is, "Well, for the top 1,000 or 5,000 sites on the Web, Alexa’s pretty good at saying what the relative difference is between them." Which is relatively true, most of the time at least. But for those sites in the tail, sites in the midrange, Alexa’s terrible. You kind of want to hear, "Well, none of the data sources are particularly excellent, but I like to look at Google Trends for websites, or Compete.com, or I like to look at Quantcast. I like to compare across the set. But I really like to look at maybe how many people are subscribing to their blog through Google Reader. That’s a great signal." It’s let’s you know that person is thinking more deeply about these questions.
"How do you measure social activity on a site?" That’s more of a broad based question. Like, "Do you just track tweets? Do you have some sort of an analytics tracking? What do you set up for that? Are you using something simple like a shared count? Do you have a statistics dashboard? Would you be using a Twitter client to be measuring that?" Whatever they’ve got.
If you ask these questions or you can answer these questions, I think you’re going to do a lot to cement a good relationship between things. If you’re in SEO right now and you’re thinking to yourself, "Boy, I’m not sure I can answer all those questions that Rand had on the board," I mean, these aren’t the toughest things that’ll get tossed at you at an interview. They shouldn’t be definitely. So you might want to spend some time having good answers to these questions, thinking hard about these things, researching them. And likewise, if you’re an employer or a contractor and you’re trying to find SEO people to work for you, do consulting work, you definitely want to amass a good set of these. I would actually recommend trying to ask relatively consistently again and again with the same people because having that consistency between questions let’s you really grade people on the same level. If you change up your questions every time, it can get tough to remember how well a candidate might have done against another one.
All right, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this addition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you’re going to find some great jobs and some great SEOs, and I look forward to seeing you again next time. Take care.
by Stoney deGeyter
When taking your public relations strategy online, there are some similarities to the “traditional” way of doing things, but there are also a lot of differences. Going online opens up a whole new world of opportunities that, if leveraged properly, can make your PR campaign far more successful than the old-school ways of doing things.
So far in this series we’ve looked at why online readers are different from offline readers, clarified the goals of online PR, and then dived into the background research needed to craft a good story. The following two posts will focus on developing your story in a way to maximize your reach through search and social.
Any good writer knows that there is more to a good story than meets the eye. Anybody can throw some words on a page, but it takes a lot of thought and prep work to take a story and turn it into something that is valuable, or succeeds at fulfilling it’s intended purpose. Writing online PR content isn’t much different than offline PR content. Many of the staples remain the same.
However, because you’re dealing with a different audience than you might otherwise have dealt with offline, you have to take the nuances of this new audience into consideration before, during and after crafting your story for consumption. While the tenants of good writing remain, the action of carrying out those tenants can sometimes be very different.
Getting someone’s attention is the first step in getting your proverbial foot in the door. If you have the best piece of content out there but fail to grab the attention of your audience, then you have a fantastic, but unread, piece of content! Getting your content read is more than just having a catchy headline, it’s about saying something that really get’s people to sit up and take notice.
One of the ways to grab your audience’s attention is to use their search phrases throughout your content. When your readers see the keywords they actually searched for in your headline and in your content, it continues to reinforce the idea that this is what they were looking for. When you use words other than what the searcher uses, then you are, in effect, speaking an entirely different language. Some readers may get the correlation, but many will be gone before you can say “Hey, wait, this is what I really mean!”
Attention grabbing headlines are important, but again, keyword usage here is important. A cool headline that isn’t keyword focused can often fail at delivering the right traffic. Headlines for online content need to focus more on keywords than on “shock” or entertainment value. Those elements can still be useful, but without keywords, your content will be bypassed altogether.
You also need to make sure the content itself grabs your audience’s attention. You can’t just throw out a headline that isn’t backed up by your content. If your headline get’s their attention, the content has to keep it. If the headline entices someone to read your content, make sure your content entices them to keep reading. If your headline makes them sit up and take notice, make sure your content makes them grab a cup of coffee and read every last drop, er, word.
We all know that if we want our content to get read we have to make it worth reading. Nothing new here. But because online readers are so fickle, lack focus and have a short attention span (see part 1), there is a lot more work that has to go into making your content interesting.
As I mentioned above, grabbing your audience’s attention goes beyond a good headline. And you have to do more than throw a phrase in every now and then that shakes them up. Everything in between needs to be interesting, compelling, and valuable. Anything that’s not should be cut and (figuratively, of course) dropped onto the editing room floor!
There are four key things you can do to make almost any content interesting:
Be Unique: Put out something new. Don’t write about the same thing in the same way, instead find a way to write about something new and different.
Take a Different Approach: Tackle your subject in a different way. Even if you’re writing about the “same ole, same ole”, do it in a new way that addresses the topic in a way that no one else is addressing.
Make it Compelling: Make sure your approach is compelling. This isn’t about change for the sake of change, but about finding a more compelling way to present the information at hand. Keep them interested.
Create Value: Finally, make sure every reader walks away having learned something new. If the information isn’t valuable to them then you’ve wasted a great opportunity. Your primary goal is to make sure your audience feels they have gained something by reading your content.
Everything noted above can apply to any content, regardless of the forum. Here is where we get into the specifically web-related stuff.
Title tags are probably the most important real estate for producing optimized content. They are often the first signals the search engines see when determining the topic (and therefore the rankings) of a page. They’re also what the search engines display in their search results. Your title tag is the clickable link in the search results. If it’s not both keyword rich and compelling, you’ll either have a lower ranked page or one that gets clicked fewer times. Or possibly both.
The page title isn’t necessarily the title of your content, though they can often be the same. Regardless, you’ll want your optimized title to be more keyword rich, without sacrificing it’s ability to get attention. Try to keep the title tag under 63 characters, as this is the limit that the search engines display in the search results. Longer won’t matter, just so long as you know that it may get cut off.
While not critical to getting good rankings for your content, the meta description does have value. For the most part, the search engines will use the meta description as the descriptive text below the clickable title in the search results. This gives you an opportunity to craft a keyword rich and compelling language that will give searches additional insight and reason to click into your content.
If you are targeting a very specific keyword or group of keywords, you can create a meta description that targets those phrases. However, there are cases when a meta description may actually hinder the click rather than help. In these cases, where your content is going after what is considered the “long-tail” phrases, you can leave off the description and let the search engines pull a snippet of text from the content to display in the search results.
This allows the description in the search results to include the specific keyword the searcher used without you having to have foreknowledge of the exact phrase that might be entered in. Since long-tail keyword variations are so abundant, trying to craft a meta description with every possible variation is impossible. Let the search engines do it.
We’ll continue in Part 2, looking at other elements that are valuable in crafting a strong online PR piece.
See all posts in this series:
Part 1: Intro / How Print Audience Differs from Web Audience
Part 2: Goals of Online PR
Part 3: Background Research
Part 4a: Crafting the Story p1
Part 4b: Crafting the Story p2
Part 5: Broadcasting the Message / Conclusion
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