Baiting and Beseeching — Obtaining the right mix of chasing links and getting them to chase you

In this blog, I’ve often spoken about different link-building strategies. Generally, we can break them down into two categories: chasing links vs. letting them chase you. Both methods have their pros and cons, and personally I’ve found that a mixed approach of link acquisition and link baiting is best. In this post I’m going to talk specifically about how each works and the strategies to employ. Whether you are a “chaser” or a “chasee” I’m going to tell you why you should make sure you’re doing both. Read more

Link Mass: How to determine how much effort it takes to rank for any particular keyword phrase

Based on the emails and response I received for my contribution to the “Link Building Secrets” project, I know that I am not the only one that loves to use metrics to measure how close I am to my goals. Thanks to everyone for your emails and encouraging comments. In this post I want to reveal another useful metric I use for our internal and client projects.

When you check the backlinks of sites ranking for competitive keywords (terms with many search results) you see that those sites have a large number of links pointing to them. But if you count the links of the top ten (using Yahoo Site Explorer, as the rest of the backlink checkers are not very useful), you notice that the results at the top don’t necessarily have more links than the ones at the bottom. This is the case because each link carries a unique rank-boosting weight (real PageRank and other link-value factors in the case of Google) that contributes to the ranking of the page for that particular term. In order to simplify things, I like to refer to the combinations of positive and negative link value factors of a page as its Link Mass. Read more

A Radically New Concept in Keyword Research

SEO expert and blogger Donna Fontenot recently honored me with a positive review of my recently launched software, RankSense. I must admit that I was not born a salesman and I detest hype and hyperbole, so it feels great when my peers see the value in what I am trying to bring to the market. Thanks Donna and thanks Tad for your reviews. Although I have worked closely with top copywriter, Paul Robb (winner of the SEOmoz landing page competition), and my clever technical writer and editor, Benjamin Zadik, to create persuasive copy for our product site, I have to admit that there is still a lot of work to do explaining the true benefits of the software (and in some measure, the benefits of SEO).

If you have read some of my posts, you know that I don’t like to do what everybody else is doing and I think that reflects strongly in the way I designed the software. For instance, if you have used any of the keyword research tools on the market, you know that there is little that differentiates one from the other. Most do the same thing: find the keywords people are actively searching for, measure their competitiveness, assess their value, and so on. RankSense is different.

In this post I would like to go deeper into what I believe is one of the most powerful and useful features of RankSense—a radically different keyword research module. Read more

How to Act Like an SEO Expert: Four mistakes to avoid when performing SEO experiments

In yesterday’s post I explained my creative process for uncovering new and interesting search marketing ideas. In this post I want to focus on the other critical element toward becoming an expert: endless experimentation. Of course testing must be done carefully to avoid arriving at the wrong conclusions, which will bring us to another of my favorite topics: human error.

As I like to do, let me explain my process with an actual example.

Last month there was an interesting post on SEOmoz about session IDs and HTTP cookies. In the post, Rand asserted that search engines don’t support cookies, and it’s therefore another alternative to controlling robot access to a site. Very clever; I don’t know how I didn’t think about that first! :-)

Well, in the comments, King questioned the validity of the original assumption that search engines don’t accept cookies. Here is what he had to say:

I’m not sure its [sic] really true that search engines (Google at least) don’t accept cookies. I recently (well 6 months ago) created a site that checks for cookies before allowing customers access to the shopping cart. If cookies are disabled it sends the user to a[n] info page on the topic Google indexed the actual shopping cart page perfectly well, they totally bypassed the “cookie info” page, and never indexed that at all. Cookie checking was done entirely via PHP code.

For a while I have assumed that Google does not support cookies, but the truth is that search engines are constantly being improved and have evolved over the years. For instance, years ago search engine crawlers did not follow links embedded in JavaScript, but recent experiments have proven that at least Google does follow the less intricate ones.

So, this was a perfect candidate for a simple experiment. Let’s confirm whether search engines accept cookies or not. As best I can, I like to follow the scientific method. Read more

How to Think Like an SEO Expert

If you want to become an expert you need to start thinking like one. People perceive you as an authority in your field not because you claim you are, but by listening to what you say or reading what you write. From my personal experience, the key seems to be the originality, usefulness and depth of what you have to share. Recently I was very honored to contribute to a link-building project. I wanted to share with you my idea, but more than that, in this blog I like to take extra time to explain the original thought process that helped me come up with the idea in the first place.

The Challenge

Toolbar PageRank was a very important factor in measuring the quality of a link for a long while. But Google has played so much with it that it can hardly be considered reliable these days. I like to see problems like these as challenges and opportunities, so I decided to look hard for alternatives. I know there are several other methods (like using the Yahoo backlink count, number of indexed pages, etc.) but I did not feel these directly reflected how the link was important to Google, or to any other specific search engine. Each search engine has its own evaluation criteria when it comes to links, so using metrics from one to measure another is not a reliable gauge in my opinion.

I knew the answer was out there, and I knew just where to look. Read more

My SMX West Experience and Pitching the Business Value of SEO

I haven’t been blogging as often as usual lately and it’s about time I get back on track. I attended my first search marketing conference last week. I do not consider myself much of a conference-goer and I am not really much of an extrovert. Previously, I’d been to only two conferences—JavaOne in 2003, but that was before I fell in love with Python and had the team port all the server-side code to Python/Django—and LISA ’04 (Large Installation System Administration), a conference for Linux/Unix system administrators. I was tempted to go to one of the webmaster conferences, too, but I never saw much benefit in sharing tips and techniques with potential competitors. That was before I started blogging and began to understand the value of sharing, building authority and trust. Boy, after going to SMX West, I realize I have so much catching up to do in terms of networking!

This conference was particularly important for me because I wanted to use SMX West to help launch our flagship product, RankSense. We have worked on the software for more than three years (including several months of beta testing) and I think SMX was the just the right place for its debut. The first day I had to work with my team in final preparations for the booth, and the other two days I ended up staying on to answer questions and speak with guests, so I was not able to attend all the conference sessions. But I met a lot of wonderful people with whom I have exchanged emails, phone calls or instant messages, or whose quality work I simply enjoy online. Thanks to all of you, the conference was big success.

Although I was not able to attend the sessions, which from what I heard were extremely helpful, I did learn something very important. While I began by explaining the value of RankSense to people visiting the booth, on many occasions I had to back up and explain the value of SEO. Many folks I spoke with were unfamiliar with organic SEO because they primarily did pay-per-click (PPC) or were completely new to search marketing (some were coming from email marketing or other online marketing disciplines). I learned to perfect a pitch that worked very well, and I thought it would be a good idea to share it with you.

Here is how I explained the business value of SEO… Read more