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Why Interlinking Your Blogs Posts is a Must (and Not Just For SEO)

This is a guest contribution by Daniel Vassiliou of Endurance SEO.

Everybody loves (LOVES) to talk about link building and find the latest and greatest technique for building backlinks to your blog. While this gets you more traffic and better rankings in the search engines, it can draw away from an equally important aspect of your blog – internal (or onsite) SEO.

Not only does a good internal SEO practice help boost your rankings by making it easier for Google’s crawlers to access your pages, but it also allows real people (yeah, they’re still on the internet) to navigate your site and hopefully stick around longer.

A major part of onsite SEO is the internal linking of your blogs pages, and this post will explore the intricacies of interlinking your blogs pages to one another.

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

Why Interlink Blog Posts?

The main goal of interlinking your blog posts is to have search engines be able to easily crawl and index all of your pages, as well as see the structure of your site. A clean structure makes it so all of your pages get indexed, which means it can match them to search queries.

Since Google strives to give the best experience as well as the best content for queries to its searchers, the quality of your site layout comes into play when rankings are determined.

Benefits Other Than SEO

There are plenty of blog posts that will tell you that interlinking is only important in regards to SEO, but this simply isn’t the case.

Internal links make it easier for your readers to navigate through your site and find more content. Imagine someone finding a post of yours through a Google search. They could read it, get the information they want, and exit or back out without a second thought. But if you incorporate anchor text links within the blog, leading readers to other relevant posts, of a sudden your readers are exploring your site for an extended period of time, rather than only a few minutes. And this greatly increases the chance of them subscribing or coming back another time.

Bounce Rate

Drawing visitors into your blog for longer periods of time will lower your bounce rate, which is important because Google uses your bounce rates as a metric to determine if your blog has good content or not. Google tracks if searchers jump into a post, look at a single page without exploring deeper, and bounce back out of the page. If this happens a lot on your site then Google can tell that people aren’t finding your site useful and you will experience lower rankings as a result.

This is a great Problogger post about reducing bounce rate. Pay special attention to the first Navigation Bar tip as it is a form of internal linking as well.

Ways of Internal Linking Effectively

There are two things to remember when internally linking your blogs: structure and common sense. For structure, focus on using a tiered linking system that uses a top down approach, starting with the home page. A good example of this can be seen with breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs

Hansel and Gretel may have been the first depiction of internet readers that we have to date. They were both so ADD that they couldn’t even remember how to get home on their jaunts in the woods. Readers on your blog are the same (in a way) but they can’t leave their own breadcrumbs to find a way back – so you have to help them out.

This is an example of online breadcrumbs taken from the Amazon query “blogging for dummies”.

Amazon breadcrumb example

Breadcrumbs show you the multiple levels and landing pages that took you to where you are. If you ended up going too deep down the rabbit hole a simple click and any crumb brings you to a broader page. There are plenty of plugins that allow you to incorporate breadcrumbs into your site, which in turn creates natural internal links on all of your pages. The best I’ve found is Yoast’s breadcrumb plugin for WordPress.

Link Naturally

Once you have a tiered system set up that internally links all of your main pages correctly you can begin to link between your blog posts. This helps to keep any one post from falling in the cracks and helps to keep everything indexed in the SERP.

There are tools that can help link naturally between blog posts – the best of which is yet another WordPress plugin known as SEO Smart Links that matches keywords to tags and titles and automatically makes links between the two.

SEO Smart links can be a great tool for larger blogs where you might forget about specific articles or if you post a lot of content. If you have a smaller blog however, it is relatively easy to link between your posts manually.

Make the anchor text relevant and keyword specific so crawlers and users know what kind of page the link is pointing to. This helps with click through rates and indexing, as well as SERP rankings.

Don’t Overdo It

It’s important not to overdo it when it comes to interlinking. Trying to manipulate the SERPs by creating thousands of exact match keyword anchor texts to your landing page looks, and is, spammy and your blog will be penalized for this abuse. Keep it natural and mix up your keywords to fit naturally within sentences, rather than trying to force your content around the keywords.

Keep it Under Control

It’s important to stay true to the tiered system of internal linking to keep things in order for users and for crawlers. Try following something close to the classic pyramid structure where the Home Page is on the top, and everything flows down from there. Linking randomly to and from landing pages, blog posts, the about page, contact pages, and whatever else you might have can quickly make a mess of things and you could be sending the crawlers on a wild goose chase as they attempt to make sense of your site.

Keep it simple for them and they will reward you with better rankings and quicker indexing, and your readers will reward you with more exploration and involvement.

It all starts with great content

Of course, the best internal linking structure is a moot point if you don’t have strong content in order to keep the readers around and interested. Any part of SEO should never take precedence over the quality of your content, but it can be used to boost strong content to the next level.

Daniel Vassiliou is CEO of Endurance SEO and has been involved in SEO and online promotions/marketing for about 13 years now. If you have any queries regarding this post or how to improve your websites internal linking strategy, then leave a comment or contact Daniel.

Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013

This guest post is by Jeff Foster of WebBizIdeas.

Just as low-level article directories (ezinearticles, articlesbase, and others) got hurt by Google’s Panda Update in 2013, I predict that Google will hurt sites abusing guest blogging in 2013.

I don’t feel guest blogging is bad, nor that all bloggers who do it will be penalized by Google. SEOMOZ.org allows guest blogging and their rankings increased during the Panda update. But when SEO companies start to abuse any link building tactic, you need a preventative plan in place because an update from Google will be coming.

How do we know an update is coming?

Quite simply, Google’s spam team has warned us.

What’s the wrong way to publish guest posts?

1. Stop telling people it’s a guest post

Would you find the information credible on the front page of the New York Times if the title said: “Guest post: 10 Ways To Improve Your Home Value”? Stop using the words “guest post,” “guest blog post,” “guest author,” or whatever phrase you’re using.

There is nothing wrong with allowing someone to contribute to your blog, but if you wouldn’t trust an article in the newspaper that says the writer is a “guest author,” do you think Google will trust it?

Notice What SEOMOZ.org does:

seomoz-author-name

Does this person work for SEOMOZ? No. Do you notice what the title is? A regular title that you would use if you wrote the article. Do you notice who it is published by? A real person. When you click on his name where does it go? To an internal author bio page using Google’s recommended rel=author tag.  Learn how Google wants you to link a guest author’s name correctly.

2. Stop letting authors add unnatural links in posts

Google’s Penguin update penalizes sites that link text unnaturally. What is unnatural linking? If I linked the words “Minneapolis SEO Company” to my homepage, that is unnatural. An editor of CNN.com wouldn’t link to a company talked about that way.

Should you add that to your “write for us” guidelines page? No. You should just not accept guest posts from people who submit content to you that way. Just like Google doesn’t tell you their algorithm, don’t tell people your filtering mecognizsim.

People who write content this way are spammers or a terrible SEO Company. You don’t want to be associated with their company or their clients. Why? Google has a new Co-Citation Algo that associates people with one another. Just as Google will devalue your website if you are in thousands or bad link directories, they will devalue your website if you are associated with spammers.

3. Stop letting people add unnatural links to their author bios

Many sites that were not pumping out low value content in exchange for links were still affected by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. Why? They weren’t trusted websites. The truth is Google thinks differently than you.

  • What you say: Sure, I would love to accept a well written article from you that relates to my blog.  I am ok if you add only a couple of links in the author bio.
  • What Google hears: If you tell people (i.e. SEO Companies) they can give you something for free (i.e. an article) in exchange for a link, it violates our link scheme guidelines.

Rationalize and argue all you want, but that is what Google will hear if you are not a trusted site. Do you think Google cares if the unnatural link occur in the article or author bio section? Do they they say, “We allow spammy links in author bio sections?”

You have a much higher chance of being penalized for this unnatural linking if you are not a trusted site—especially if Google knows your site is just built to accept guest blog posts in exchange for links. They normally don’t penalize sites they trust, but be safe and don’t give them a reason to get confused.

When in doubt, check out trusted websites that allow links in their author bio sections and emulate them. For example, check out this case, this example, and this one.

4. Stop promoting links as a benefit of submitting a guest post

Please read again Google’s link scheme guidelines. Anything that a person gives you in exchange for a link is spam in Google’s eyes.

Stop giving them reasons to not value your website. Nothing is wrong with having a “write for us” page with editorial guidelines. Nothing is wrong with allowing a natural link(s) in the author bio section. But saying one of the benefits of giving us an article is a link back to your site technically is in violation of Google’s policy.

You may never get penalized for it, but why take the risk? Instead of an overdone “write for us” page that begs people to submit content, why not try this?

Make your little blog look like the CNN.com in your industry, and Google will be happy.

What is the proper way to allow guest blog posts?

1. Allow author bios

Download an author bio plugin or create your own so people can connect with the authors on your site. A basic author bio section (bottom of post) looks like this:

Author-bio-section

What are the main features of this section?

  1. It’s about a real person: it links to an internal author bio page, correctly coded
  2. It includes social links: these allow people to follow the author socially, and are correctly coded.

The most important part of the example is the Google+ link. By default, you should have it link the Google+ anchor text to the profile of the user in the format of: <a href=”https://plus.google.com/(number)?rel=”author”>Google+</a>

Why would you want to do that? Because then the person’s picture appears in Google’s search results! Is the picture the only benefit? No. What if Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ posted on my blog and Google could identify that it was actually Rand Fishkin? Do you think Google would trust me more if I am associated with Rand? Yes. Google’s Co-Citation Algo is already in full swing, so code correctly!

2. Provide author bios for each author

To “feed” the Google Panda Update you needed to create quality unique content. To “feed” the Google Penguin Update you needed to create natural links. To “feed” the next update that attacks guest blogging you will need to create co-citations.

Step 1: Create an author bio page to create co-citations

Here’s an example author bio page.

Author-bio-page

What is an author bio page? It is a short biography of the author with properly coded social links. It also includes links to all the content that the author published on your website.

Step 2: Link the author’s name to the author bio page

Do this using rel=”author” on each blog post when you say “By [author name]” and in the author bio section.

This way, Google will associate the person with your website. If you get President Obama to write a guest blog post on your website and Google knows it really is the President, do you think they will find that article and your website valuable?

On the flip side, if Google doesn’t know who anyone is who’s published content on your site, are they going to value—or worse, devalue—your blog posts or blog? In 2013, that is my prediction. If the blog doesn’t tell Google who wrote the article, or if Google can identify that the people who wrote the article are spammers, the blog will be penalized.

3. Allow natural outbound links in the post

Many website owners are scared of Google. Some media sites don’t allow links because they just don’t know if Google will penalize them for it or not. Worrying that Google will increase or decrease your rankings shouldn’t be a reason why you don’t allow links in your posts.

Imagine reading this article (see screenshot below) and not being able to click on the resources the author is talking about. Even if the author, CEO of SEO.com, links to his own site, it is still cleverly relevant to the post:

Allow-links

Does Google penalize you for allowing relevant DoFollow links in posts? Well, Google ranks this post #1 for ‘link building in 2013′

Link-building in 2013

So it is not wrong to allow contributing authors to add natural links to posts. No, you don’t have to put Nofollow tags on every outbound link; Google does not want that. What do they want? They want you to ensure the content and links are relevant. So do allow contributing writers to add natural links.

4. Allow real people to comment

Are you giving real people reasons to want to contribute to your site? Do people actually read and respond to your comments? Do your comments look like this:

Links-in-comments

How should you code your comments?

  1. Link the person’s name to their author bio on your site using a Dofollow link; not to their website. Learn how to properly code your author bio section.
  2. Automatically make all outbound links NoFollow links.

The benefits of doing this are:

  • More people feel part of your blog.
  • More people comment.
  • Which means more new/targeted content for Google.
  • Authors get links back to their author bio pages.
  • This increases the value of those pages.
  • And this ranks their articles (on your blog) #1 in Google.

When Google comes out with its next big update, if you have followed the steps above and associated each blog post with a real, influential person, you won’t be penalized.

But if you have low-value spammers writing content for you, or you don’t tell Google who wrote your content, expect your blog to be devalued.

is the owner of WebBizIdeas, an SEO, social media marketing and website design firm. WebBizIdeas Visit his seo resource center for more helpful tutorials on how to promote your business online.

How to Leverage Blog Comments to Increase Search Rank

This guest post is by Jonathan Solis of NutraSol Natural Center.

When the topic of getting blog comments for SEO comes up, your first thought would probably be to get links to your site by commenting on other blogs.

Well, I usually don’t waste my time with that technique, because most comment links are no-follow anyway.

And I want to bring focus to the comments on my own blog.

Having user-generated content on your site has always been an easy way to gain search engine traffic from long-tail keyword queries.  Comments are a good source of user-generated content containing those keyword phrases.

For the last two years, I’ve been conducting SEO experiments for all types of websites, ranging from my blogs to local business directories, and I have found that user-generated content from the comments section in my health blogs has increased my traffic tremendously.

The site that’s producing the best results for me right now is the Spanish health blog, Informe Natural. I apologize for using a site in a foreign language as an example, but this is the site I reached my conclusions from, and the idea will apply no matter what language you’re blogging in.

How it works

It all started when I began marketing Alpiste Seeds for sale online and featured an article about where to buy them on the Spanish health and nutrition blog.  As people found the page, they began to ask questions in the comments section.

Without realizing it, they were adding to my on-page search engine optimization efforts.

They would ask questions with keyword phrases like, “where can I buy the alpiste seeds in Georgia?” and I would reply with another comment answering the question in a complete sentence that contained the keyword phrase.

For example, I would write “you can order the alpiste seeds by the phone and we would be happy to ship it to you in Georgia”.  I would continue this technique with all the comments and the results were very rewarding.

I ended up getting a high ranking for the Spanish keyword phrase of where to buy alpiste seeds and also the long tail keywords derived from the conversations in the comments section of my blogs.

This technique made that page the second-most popular page on the entire site after my home page.

SEO Blog Comments

How can you do it? Let’s see.

5 Ways to increase search engine rankings with blog comments

1. Provide a call to action

Some people will not comment unless you entice them to.  A good technique is to write a call to action at the end of your article that tells readers to feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section of your post.

2. Reply to all the comments on time

If you give a prompt response and reply to the comments, other users will see that you are involved in the conversation and they will be more likely to ask questions too.

3. Know your target keywords before writing your comment

Make sure you know what your target keyword is before you respond with your comment.  This may seem obvious but it can easily be overlooked.  Do keyword research to find the words that are used more often by searchers.

4. Use complete sentences in your comments

As I stated earlier, answering in complete sentences gives you a reason to use your keyword phrases more often naturally, which helps you avoid making it look like a spammy attempt to increase keyword density.

5. Reply to comments with another question

When you reply to the comments, try to reply with questions so that you will get another response and, therefore, more user-generated content.

Are you using comments for SEO?

Leveraging blog comments is an effective way to get more traffic from search engines.  They are a great source of long tail keywords which account for about 85% of search engine traffic. And best of all, they are acquired from the users directly.

Do you use your blog comments to boost the search rank of your posts? Let me know in the comments.

Jonathan Solis is the owner of NutraSol Natural Center and Director of marketing for Expert Building Services, inc.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and he also has a blog where he often writes about professional business strategiesProfessional Tactics.

Are You Following these 5 Headline Writing Tips for Better SEO Traffic?

This guest post is by Garrett Moon of Todaymade.

There are so many variables to a great blog post. There’s the topic. There’s the writing style and overall quality. But few things compare to the headline. After all, your headline is the first thing that your readers will see, and is probably the most important factor in determining if they will actually read your article.

While getting actual human readers is our primary goal, search engines also matter—a lot. They can, however, add complexity to the original problem. Your headlines need to be written for humans and robots, and they need to bring in big traffic from both sides. In blogging, there are two big headline goals:

  1. Get your viewer to actually read the post.
  2. Provide Google with the fuel you need to bring you big traffic.

How do we write headlines that win big for both readers and robots? Here are a five things that you can do to improve your headlines right now.

Step 1. Become a student of great headlines

It may sound like a beginner’s move, but learning to recognize a great headline is vital to writing headlines that excel in search. How can we execute this simple step? Easy. Observe your own actions.

Observe your own actions

Day in and day out, we are all using Google to perform a variety of searches. What is it that you are searching for? Like it or not, Google knows. If you are logged into your Google account, you can view your web history at https://www.google.com/dashboard/. Review your results to see the headlines that you ultimately clicked on. Your readers are probably similar to you in what they would choose, too.

There is, of course, oodles of information out there about writing great headlines, including the famous Copyblogger course on writing magnetic headlines.

Step 2. Know your audience

After viewing your own search habits and gleaning insight about headlines that mattered to you, put yourself into your reader’s shoes. What matters to them? Who are they, and what are they searching for? It is amazing how often we can go on blogging without even taking time to consider who our audience really is.

Step 3. Use Google’s related search to define key search terms

One my favorite tools for writing great headlines that rock is search itself—use Google! If you put a little strategy into your writing, you can write SEO-packed headlines using Google’s own related search terms.

The process is simple: when you search for keywords related to your blog topic, Google will automatically suggest alternative terms and phrases that other visitors have used. It is important to remember that these terms are based on crowd-sourced knowledge gained from millions of searches per day. These are the most popular keywords surrounding your topic.

Google autosuggest

It is very important in this step to refine your terms a bit and collect additional terms from a series of other popular searches. Let Google make suggestions and then revise your terms using these suggestions. This process can help us think outside the box and discover what our customers are looking for.

Step 4. Rewrite your headline at least three times

I can’t stress this step enough. Too often, we put a lot of our time and effort into the blog post, and forget about the headline. While the blog post will always matter and we do have to deliver in its content, the headline has to be great. Repeated iteration is key to great headline success. Write at least three alternative headlines for each post, for three reasons:

  1. We explore new territory: Admit it. You tend to write the same things over and over. We all do, but when we write more than one headline we force ourselves to work beyond the boundaries of our habits.
  2. Practice makes perfect: The more we write headlines, the better we become. More practice is always a good thing.
  3. We find new ideas: I can’t tell you how many “new posts” have come out of this simple habit. By writing three, you will regularly find a new spin on an old topic.

Step 5. A/B Test your headlines using Twitter or email marketing

Every time you publish or release an idea into the world, you are opening up to the opportunity to learn something new. Publishing new headlines should be no different. Improve your headline writing skills by putting them to the test.

Schedule a few tweets that link to the same post using alternative headlines. You could use several of your “extras” from step four of this blog post. The trick is to use a custom bit.ly link or other short URL service that allows you to track clicks. At the end of each day, calculate the clicks, retweets, and comments that you received with each headline. Which headline methods worked better than others?

The same test can be done with an active email marketing list. Most email software allows you to A/B test headlines and email subjects. Get into the habit of trying headlines against each other. Make sure you document the results and use what you lean to improve your writing abilities.

Better headlines, better traffic

No matter how frustrating it might feel at times, writing great headlines is not impossible. It just takes practice and a little bit of effort. SEO-driven headlines that are written to motivate readers and perform well in search are the goal of many but the achievement of few.

Follow these simple steps, and watch your headlines and traffic get the boost they deserve.

Garrett Moon is the marketing director at Todaymade, a web software and design company that created TodayLaunch, a fast and affordable social media dashboard.

Bloggers, Think for Yourselves: Reject the SEO Rumor-Mongers!

This guest post is by Dustin Verburg and Jeriann Watkins of Page One Power.

Matt Cutts spoke, and the internet started to buzz about guest posting. This unsettled blog owners who were already uncertain about accepting contributions from strangers. SEO industry veterans declared “and from this day forth, all link building is spam, especially through guest posts!” with bitterness and vitriol.

Soon after, some more fresh-faced SEO professionals came along and gave link building a few new names. Blog owners remained unconvinced. All sorts of fingers were pointed and all sorts of names were tossed around. “Spammer! Black hat! Link builder!

And, in the end, nothing changed apart from some minor algorithm updates and the emergence of a few videos. Blog owners, take heart: not everyone is just after an easy link. Link building didn’t instantly become some cursed mummy, forever doomed to wander a forgotten tomb. Instead, young professionals renamed their jobs and moved forward.

The thing is, though, the name change wasn’t even necessary. This is a perfect example of a reactionary, irrational response on both sides of the aisle.

About “link building”

In order to appease bloggers, panic-stricken lemmings of the SEO world have recently been purporting the value of “link earning” rather than link building. This stems from a comment by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz (video included below), whose argument is that if you’re doing things to “get” links then you’re doing it wrong.

Fishkin’s main point is that you need to build great content—then, the links will come to you. While this is true, it can be misleading to people who are unfamiliar with SEO and link building in general.  

The danger is that it makes it seem like anything that’s done with the intention of obtaining a link falls into black-hat territory. The truth of the matter is that great content is not enough if no one reads it; hence, reaching out to other sources to expose your writing to a larger audience is not a bad thing.

Some people are actively trying to change the name of link building. Here’s why that’s a bad idea:

A new buzzword

The truth is, a rose by any other name is still a rose. Fishkin isn’t recommending any revolutionary changes in SEO practice, he is coining a new buzz-phrase. Just because link building doesn’t have a great reputation right now doesn’t mean that we change the name.

People who claim to be “link earning” are probably using the same methods they were last month before the term existed. No matter what it’s called, the intention is still to get links, which doesn’t have to be bad.  It’s not the name that brings the spammy methods, it’s the spammers taking short cuts and using faulty methods. Changing the name of what you do just to appeal to what is trendy seems pretty dishonest, doesn’t it?

Rather than trying to set bloggers’ minds at ease by changing the name of an industry, SEO professionals should be concerned with generating quality content that bloggers actually want. If we work to build the credibility of our industry, and our own reputations, we’ll eliminate this reactionary cycle.

Shortcuts

The reason link building is under fire is because certain methods (black blog networks, comment spamming, keyword stuffing) try to “game the system” and outsmart search engines. People try to get links without going to the work of providing quality content. Unfortunately, that is the way of the world. If there is a short-cut, it will be found and exploited, especially online, where so many short cuts are available.

The key is to find the practices that promote efficiency without sacrificing quality. Guest posting is one link building strategy that does have the potential to add quality in terms of new, unique content for your blog from someone else’s point of view.

Value

Link building functions on a case-by-case basis. The reason links are an asset is because they show that site owners appreciate and find value in the content they are linking to.

This means that if you want links you should create content that people will find valuable. Putting this content on someone else’s site with the intent of getting a backlink does not change the value.

Good writing is good writing. Google knows this; bloggers should know this as well.

Not everyone is a spammer

Like a witch hunt, the fear of spam—and the penalties that follow—has led to wide-spread panic, making bloggers all but ready to burn link builders and guest posters at the stake.

But much like many accused witches were just medicine women, there are benefits of guest posting as well.

  • Networking: Not everyone is a spammer. Guest posts can be written by people who really know what they are talking about. After all, isn’t networking marketing basics? Guest posting is a very effective networking tool, and good writers should be able to utilize it. In fact, it should be encouraged.
  • Credibility: In a recent webmaster video, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, said that high quality guest posts still have value. He then cited some examples of well-known bloggers and industry experts who would be excellent choices to host on your site.  While this is a great statement to alleviate some of the fears of accepting guest posts, it would be a mistake for blog owners to accept posts from only well-known industry experts. After all, credibility has to start being built somewhere.

The strength of blogging lies in giving people a chance to get their voice out to as many people as possible. This can and should include companies. Though we as a society are inundated with advertisements and may hate to admit it, even advertisements can add quality. After all, marketers are people too, and they like to make things that people won’t hate (hence all the remakes of Top 100 songs in commercials).  

Even if it is for link building purposes, a lot of quality content can be generated by people who haven’t yet made a name for themselves in the blogosphere.

Usefulness, sustainability, separation, and usefulness

There’s a separation between link building and spam. I can’t stress this enough to blog owners—there are spammers who build diseased links, but link building is not an inherently evil practice.

“Link earning” is the term used now instead of the currently pejorative “link building,” but when they’re done right they are the exact same thing. A good SEO wants to work with blog owners and webmasters because their goals are the same.

Links are the fuel that powers the internet, and valuable links don’t come without time and effort. They’re cultivated and carefully placed with the content, the website, the link’s destination and the site owner all in mind.

  • Link building: Link building takes work. When it’s done right, it is the practice of trading something worth value (content of some sort) for a link. It’s a little hyperlink in a sea of other text and code, but it makes a difference to an SEO professional. Writing something interesting and finding a good home for it (or doing it the other way around) is not easy. A good link builder values and supports the blog s/he’s posting on and wants to see it succeed. That link builder wants a link too, of course, but it’s not a case of expecting something for nothing. Those links are built and earned. The link and the content strengthen the foundation of every website they touch.
  • Sustainability: There are spammers who play at building links, but there are bad apples in every industry. Just because there are some shady characters among us does not mean we’re all crooks. There will always be spammers, but their practices will never be sustainable. Building links and producing content in any meaningful way is never going to be easy. We can’t let spammers corrupt an entire system that brings people together and supports a happy internet. The only thing less sustainable than spammers would be an internet so afraid of that spam that it shuts itself down for an eternity of stagnation.
  • Separation: Almost anyone with good working knowledge of the internet can tell a quality site from a spammy one. Likewise, it’s easy to sniff out a totally irrelevant link. Bizarre robot-driven links and the spam sites they love will always exist, but they’re pretty easy to avoid. A blog owner’s initial scan of the writer’s content (and email) should reveal a spammer. 500 words in broken English with impossible keyword density is much different than the work of a legitimate professional. The spammer and the professional both exist, but they’re at odds with each other. Just as there are web directories with endless pages robot-driven gibberish, there are writers sweating and bleeding over their craft to deliver good content to quality websites.
  • Usefulness: The danger lies in not trying to separate the two—if webmasters and blog owners just freeze up and stop responding to emails, those spam sites are going to be the only places on the web showing any real growth. Guest posts and other link building tools must be judged individually, not by some all-encompassing magic formula. This can be summarized in one question: will this content be useful for or interesting to your readers? If the answer is yes, then don’t you owe it to them to post it?

More than links

Having smart, creative people creating amazing content and reaching out to other smart, creative people makes the internet a better place. Building links, in the purest sense, is so much more than code, text and pixels. Content provides:

  • Diversity: There are different kinds of content. Good content always makes an impact—whether it makes someone want to reexamine their Google Analytics data, want to ride their bike, want to leave a heartfelt comment, or just makes someone laugh. But there’s no exact formula for good content. Some search marketers might love an in-depth analysis of a ballpoint pen manufacturer’s backlink profile, complete with charts and cold, hard numbers.  On the other hand, that sounds terribly boring to me. We all want different things. Content comes in many amazing forms, and it’s engaging on many distinctive levels.
  • Community: Comments and social media build communities from content. It goes deeper than that, though. These emerging communities share the same values, but they challenge each other with new ideas and concepts. Site owners, bloggers, and readers engage one another and keep each other honest as these communities form. This is how innovation happens in any niche—and it all starts with content.
  • Infrastructure: As we build links, we’re building a trustworthy infrastructure that interacts with and independently of the major search engines. A link between two sites is a vote of confidence. A good link means never having to be afraid of what lies beyond that bit of text and code. A good link is relevant, helpful, and thoughtfully placed—it’s never superfluous or dangerous.

Link building is a complicated field, and that is where the value lies. As with all industries, there will be people who offer services and products of less quality. You are probably careful about where you order sushi; practice the same caution when accepting links for your site.

The danger does not come from the name, but from the practice, and not all who practice link building are spammers. Otherwise, links would not even be a factor in search engine algorithms.

Dustin Verburg is a writer and musician based in Boise, ID who enjoys frowning at Matt Cutts’ YouTube videos. Jeriann Watkins is a writer interested in music, technology, and all sorts of random topics. They both work at Page One Power, a relevancy first link building firmin Boise, Idaho and write for their SEO blog.

Dear Bloggers, I Apologise. Regards, the SEO Industry

This guest post is by Daylan Pearce of Next Digital.

There are three common reactions I get from people when I tell them what it is I do for a job.

  1. “What is that?”
  2. “Oh that’s cool, how does that work?”
  3. *Rolls eyes* “Oh riiiight, you’re one of those guys!”

So what is it that I do for a job? I’m an SEO. Each day, I work with businesses and websites to make sure their sites and Internet presences are in the best shape possible to be found in search engines.

A big part of my role is to respond to the first two of the reactions, which is something I actually enjoy doing. These two responses open up a door for me to explain something I really love doing. It’s the perfect opportunity to educate someone on how I can help make a website, author or idea as visible as possible online.

Yet it’s the third response I mentioned that I, and many others, am finding is becoming more common lately. SEO has become a bit of a dirty word (okay, it’s an acronym, not a word) lately. And one of the most vocal groups of this negativity is from you guys—the blogging community.

There is a growing perception that SEO is full of tricks and cheats. That it is an industry full of scammers who are trying to use your site for nefarious and dastardly reasons.

And why wouldn’t you think that? If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, then you’re probably someone who receives daily emails from SEO companies looking for a guest post or link on your site. You know the ones—those poorly written and often templated emails asking if you’ll publish their awesome, relevant, and completely unique blog content on your site. The ones that remind you to “please ensure you use followed links, oh and please use these specific keywords.”

It’s insulting to you and your readers and they always seem to come from people who are doing it for SEO purposes. After cleaning out your inbox each day with the same rubbish guest post outreach emails, I don’t blame bloggers for not trusting SEO and those who claim to do it. We look like lazy, condescending jerks.

But we’re not all like that, I promise. I believe you can divide up SEO today into three categories. Every single person within the SEO industry will fit into one of these no matter who they are.

The scammer SEO

These people understand SEO, no doubt. They understand what algorithmically makes words and sites rank well and they will use any trick or tactic necessary to get those rankings.

Black-hat SEOs and companies want wins at any cost, and unfortunately the people who do partake in these tactics do often get results at the expense of those trying to do it by the Google/Bing/Yahoo etc guidelines and rules. However, these wins are often short-lived as search engines target these methods constantly, penalizing those who use them.

How to spot them

A lot of the time these tactics are obvious—we all know what spam comments and emails look like.  Sometimes, though, the tactics can get a little trickier.

Domain cloaking and redirects from approved links already on your site are two common tricks. Perhaps check your analytics now and again for any abnormalities within your referrer data or link profile:

  • keyword stuffing
  • redirects
  • linking to doorway pages
  • comment spamming.

The lazy SEO

These are the people within the SEO industry which blogging communities are probably exposed to most.

They are the ones that fill up your blog comment threads with seemingly obscure and irrelevant content trying to get an easy link on your site. They are the ones who send you those poorly written emails exclaiming their undying love of your blog to get a link. They are the ones who keep those companies who sell 1000 links for $49.95 in business.

How to spot them

These guys often have a shotgun approach to blog outreach: send many emails and hope at least one gets a response. They:

  • follow a generic (template) format
  • perpetrate spelling errors
  • have no personality
  • wish to write about topics not relevant to your site
  • offer money
  • have specific technical link requests.

The genuine SEO

This group of people know that SEO is more than just about title tags, directory submissions, and spamming blogs in the hopes of getting one response that agrees to a guest post.

Genuine SEOs will and probably have contacted you because they believe that they have something that could be of interest to your audience and their client/site. They are first and foremost online marketers who are looking to effectively convey a message to a relevant and engaged audience. The link is a nice by-product, but forming the relationship and reaching an audience is the real goal.

How to spot them

These SEOs can be trickier to identify due to the sheer volume of rubbish emails that often surround them. But typical features of a good marketer is someone who is offering:

  • relevant content to your audience
  • personalised contact and information
  • an understanding of your blog
  • a knowledge of the topic they are talking about
  • enthusiastic and personable interaction
  • a genuine tone of voice.

The shape of SEO

Unfortunately, we are all lumped under the one banner of SEO, a title that as an industry is having its reputations run into the ground because of quick wins and lazy tactics.

The ironic (and tragic) part is that SEO is all about building brand awareness and boosting reputation, yet the tactics that a huge number in the industry use to try and achieve this goal are destroying our very own brand and reputation. SEOs are hurting SEO.

Ultimately, it’s up to us as SEOs to help make the Internet and search results better. That may seem corny as hell, but we know how this search stuff works. We need to stop turning the Internet against us.

There is a reason that 19 of your 20 blog out reach emails don’t get a reply. Instead of coming up with tactics to get a link, we need to come up with and promote tactics to build an audience.  Otherwise it’s kind of like Superman using his powers to become the world’s biggest super-villain instead of helping those in need.

So, on behalf of all people within the SEO industry who do search marketing and optimization with the view to benefit users and readers a like, I apologise for those who don’t.

Daylan Pearce is search lead for Australian Digital Agency Next Digital. You can find him via his blog at DaylanDoes.com where he writes about all things search & social or on Google Plus.

URL Be Sorry! Google Cuts Back on Top-ranking Exact-match Domains

This guest post is by Rob Henry of K2L Marketing.

Regular Google users will know that one of the easiest ways to get a good ranking in its search results is for your web address to exactly match the search query.

Get it spot-on and, until recently, you’ve been almost assured of a position close to the top, and often in the number-one slot on page one of the SERPs.

But Google’s continuing mission to put right what once went wrong in their algorithms is now targeting what Matt Cutts calls “low-quality ‘exact-match’ domains”.

This adds to the work done by the Panda update, which filtered out poor-quality web pages, and Penguin, which tackled spammy pages.

According to a Cutts’ tweet on September 28th, 0.6% of English-US queries will be noticeably affected.

This might not sound like many searches in the grand scheme of things. However, the latest comScore figures show that Google sites were responsible for 11.3 billion individual search queries in the US alone in August 2012, meaning that 0.6% of queries amounts to almost 68 million searches per month.

What they said

Cutts’ full announcement of this update on Twitter read as follows:

Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality ‘exact-match’ domains in search results…

New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.

The immediate response was positive, with one Twitter user simply replying with “Yippeeee!,” and another joking “I suspect that won’t be a ‘minor’ weather report to the vast majority of affiliate marketers.”

Moving on from EMDs

So just what does this mean for online marketing and SEO? Well, it goes considerably further than simply meaning that EMDs won’t be so prevalent in the search results, because it opens up that top spot to other websites that are able to compete using the remaining “acceptable” methods of SEO not yet targeted for penalisation by Google.

There are as many webmasters out there who are frustrated by always ranking second to an EMD as there are site owners who will be negatively affected by this change. So it’s the perfect opportunity for us to re-optimize any of our pages that could use a bit of attention.

Poor quality content is already a no-no, as are paid links or those created by spamming blog comments and discussion forums. Now EMDs are out too. So renew your focus on legitimate PPC platforms and the remaining on-page SEO opportunities.

Where to focus for better position

Good-quality content will always be favoured by Google, and they’ve never stopped saying that well-placed on-page keywords are a good thing, as long as they don’t damage the overall quality and grammar of the page they’re placed on.

Look to your best-performing pages for inspiration, and you can’t go wrong: you’re likely to find a strong structure with keywords and phrases repeated a couple of times in appropriate places on the page, possibly helped further by your choice of anchor text for hyperlinks on the page, text used in image captions, and so on.

With these Google-approved locations for keywords, you can make sure your pages are viewed in the best possible light by the search robots, even if they’re hosted on an EMD. Hopefully, you’ll be able to snag yourself that top spot in the search results once the dust settles.

This blog was written by Rob Henry, marketing specialist at K2L. K2L Marketing is a full service marketing agency offering a unique approach to your marketing needs.

How to Find an SEO Goldmine for Your Blog

This guest post is by Elena Vakhromova of Freemake.com.

We all know that search engines are a big piece of blog traffic cake. Unlike other traffic sources (subscriptions or social media), search engines bring visitors who are generally unfamiliar with your blog and have one definite goal: to get an answer or solve the problem with the help of your post.

So while your Facebook fans would rather go to check out your recent post on any abstract topic, visitors from Google & Co. are able to discover only the posts which are shown in search results for queries they enter.

Ideally, every new post should bring visitors from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and so on. However, an average blog has only a few pages ranking high in search results and bringing new visitors daily.

When we started the Freemake Blog in May 2012, we never thought that one post (written in 20 minutes, purely for fun) would bring us ~6K pageviews daily. To tell the truth, we did nothing extraordinary to optimize this post. It just appeared when it was high demand for “funny questions to Siri” and there were almost no posts on this topic.

When we realized how fertile search traffic can be, we tried to write every new post aiming at the same result. And some of our initiatives have been successful.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that we write solely SEO-oriented posts, by no means. We understand that there should be a sound balance between SEO goals and common sense. So we never practiced keyword stuffing, but tried to find the topics which would be interesting to our readers and bring us traffic from search engines.

Here I’d like to share with you an approach that may help you find an SEO goldmine for your own blog.

Step 1. Look for standout ideas

Imagine that you’re going to write a potential SEO-boosting post and you face the problem of topic choice. First, you need to make up a list of all possible topics for the blog that you’re able to cover. There are several places where you can find ideas for new posts:

  • Q&A sites: Look for topics on popular Q&A sites (Yahoo! Answers, Quora, Mahalo, etc.). Go through all questions in your category.
  • News and trends: Your readers’ attention revolves around popular events in the world and your niche, so why not take advantage of upcoming releases, holidays, and rumors?
  • Comments & suggestions: Your visitors may suggest great ideas for new posts. If you don’t have a “Tip us off” page or at least a dedicated email address, it’s high time to think about it.
  • Competitors: Have a look at popular posts on competing blogs. If they don’t have such a section, you may check top search queries for that site in Alexa.
  • Social media: Visit your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts and see what your friends and followers are sharing. Some of their ideas may be worth your attention.

Write down all interesting ideas. Then look though the list and cross out those for which you don’t have enough expertise.

Step 2. Forecast organic traffic

You outlined several ideas for a new post. Now let’s check their potential popularity in search engines.

For each idea write three or four possible keywords and compare them using the Google Keyword Tool. This lets you measure the levels of traffic the keywords would bring to your blog if you optimized a new post for them. Put down the rates of global and local monthly searches for each keyword.

The Keyword Tool will also help you identify more worthy keywords to concentrate on. You may also use:

  • Google Trends to compare the volume of searches between two or more terms
  • Google search suggestions and related searches to get more keyword ideas. Just start typing a query and look at the Google auto-suggestions. Then click Search and look for the related searches at the bottom of results.

google_suggestions

At the end of this process, you should have on your list only the ideas with high keyword traffic potential.

Step 3. Find free SEO niches

Once you’ve decided on the keywords, analyze your possible competitors to find a free niche. This tactic especially makes sense for small and medium-sized blogs that don’t have enough authority to compete with big ones for high search engine rankings.

Enter the keywords you picked up in Step 2 and look at the first page of search results. It’s worth trying to compete if, on the first search results page, you see user-generated content (e.g. forum questions, self-created tutorials, YouTube videos, and so on), or posts from blogs whose PageRank and Alexa Rank are poorer than yours.

On the other hand, if large authoritative blogs like TechCrunch, Mashable, or Engadget have already written on the topic you’ve chosen, and the first search results page has no “ray of light”, you’d better think of a different approach to this topic (e.g. a negative or funny one), look for another vacant query, or quit this idea.

Step 4. Pick the winners

So you have filtered your ideas by keyword popularity and competition. Now it’s time to identify the leaders. You shouldn’t always pick up only one topic—maybe several of them deserve to become a new post, or one idea may lead to several articles with different keywords. So let’s prioritize the ideas on this basis.

First, take the topics which are tied to upcoming events or rising trends, and publish the post at least two weeks prior to the event.

Then, give preference to evergreen topics which you’ll be able to update with new information.

Finally, pick up those which seem best suited to your blog content.

Step 5. Write a quality article

When writing a post on the topic you selected, remember that SEO aims shouldn’t affect the post quality. Don’t overburden the post with keywords. Keep in mind: readers who visit your post and don’t find any worthy content won’t come back to your blog again.

To decide which format better suits your new post, analyze your previous articles that gained high social engagement (tweets, likes, comments). What format, length, and headline peculiarities do they have? Don’t be afraid to repeat your successful experiments.

Consider providing useful calls to action and giving additional materials: links to particular tools, related articles, illustrative charts, images, and videos. Don’t write too floridly. Your readers are simple internet users, like you and me. So make every effort to provide a really interesting article.

Step 6. Reanimate SEO-unfriendly posts

As a bonus, I’d like to suggest reconsidering old posts which should be bringing visitors from search engines, but for whatever reason, aren’t. You may easily find such articles in your blog analytics: their keywords don’t bring much traffic as compared to your SEO-leaders.

No doubt, the reasons for this may differ from post to post—from technical or design oversights to high keyword competition. I’d like to draw your attention to the SEO drawbacks that you may eliminate in shortest time:

  • The keywords you chose are unpopular. In this case, examine Keyword Tool ideas to find better keyword combinations (go to Step 2 above).
    keyword_toolFor example, I see that our blog has a keyword funniest youtube channels which brought us about 150 visitors last month. Our post comes second in search results on this query. We consider the keyword unpopular—it has only 720 global monthly searches. Still the tool suggests to me the related search terms top youtubers, funny youtube channels, and best youtube channels.

    It’s clear that top youtubers isn’t what the post is exactly about, but a simple change from funniest to funny youtube channels might triple the clickthroughs to this post.

    • Your post doesn’t look attractive in search results, so people don’t click it. A skillfully written title and description will improve the situation.
    • The post doesn’t match the keywords for which it’s appearing.Short visit durations and high bounce rates are strong signs of this problem. Therefore, think thoroughly about what people expect to see when they enter a particular search query. What is their aim?For instance, imagine that you look for a good youtube converter and instead of a direct link to some converter, you see the analysis of how to choose a good YouTube converter. You may scroll the tips and even follow them one day, but your goal isn’t achieved, you haven’t received what you were looking for. So the post needs re-writing (keep in mind Step 5).

    Find your SEO goldmine

    Whether new or old, as long as it’s optimized for “right” search queries and written primarily for readers, your post has all chances to become a traffic goldmine.

    However, search engines are unpredictable mechanisms, so who knows how another algorithm update will impact on your search traffic?

    What steps do you work through to make sure your posts are optimized for the right search terms? Tell us your tips in the comments.

    Elena Vakhromova is a full-time PR manager and blogger at Freemake.com, developer of free Windows software for audio/video conversion and YouTube MP3 download.

Forget Everything You Think You Know About SEO

This guest post is by Mark Collier of www.DropMining.com.

For the last year I’ve been spending my free time after school conducting Red Bull-fuelled coding sessions in the pursuit of one single goal: to bring more science to the SEO industry.

As an industry we are still only taking our first few baby steps into the world of maths, stats, and data-driven decisions. For a seemingly data-dependent industry, SEO professionals are influenced to a surprising degree by rumour, anecdotal evidence, and unscientific tests.

SEOMoz were the true visionaries in conducting correlation studies to analyse search engine algorithms. With my project, I hoped to take it that little bit further and analyse more factors on a larger dataset.

After analysing the top 100 search results for over 10,000 keywords I had gathered 180,000,000 (one hundred and eighty million) data points on 186 potential factors in the Google algorithm. This has lead to the most comprehensive published research into Google’s algorithm, and some pretty incredible findings.

With so much data and so many findings it would be impossible to go through them all here on Problogger.net, so in this post, I have hand-picked all the most important findings for bloggers.

Background: correlations explained

Correlations are a useful but imperfect indicator of the relationship between two pieces of data, in this case search engine ranking and the factor being tested. They range from -1 to 1, a minus number meaning the factor correlates with a negative impact on ranking, and a positive number meaning ranking and the magnitude of the factor move in the same direction.

How close the correlation is to either of the 1′s is an indicator of its importance/strength. A 0.7 correlation is very strong whereas a 0.05 correlation implies almost no relationship between the two variables.

For example, correlation studies have been used to link income to education. As we all know the more education we have, on average the more income we earn, but where did that statistic come from and why do most people believe it?

Correlations are used to prove relationships between two pieces of data, in this case amount of education and income, and to figure out how important that relationship is, by putting numbers behind the logic.

Here’s a little example (these are made up figures [credit]):

Correlation table

In this sample, the correlation is + 0.79. Just from looking at the data, you can see that the more time the study’s participants spent in education, the more income they earned.

This is verified by the correlation which is a positive number (when education increases, income increases) and is very close to 1.0. This demonstrates that the relationship between education and income is a strong one.

My research findings

Now that you understand correlations, let’s look at what my research revealed about SEO.

Finding 1. SEO plugins are not the answer

I’m sure you are aware there are a whole host of WordPress SEO plugins available for your blog. These plugins tend to deal primarily with on-page SEO, for example, placing keywords in the URL, title, meta description, etc.

While some plugins deal with the indexing side of SEO, which may provide some small SEO benefit, the majority tend to focus their efforts on these on-page factors.

The truth is that contrary to all the rhetoric of SEOs and industry “experts” over the last ten years, according to my research these simplistic have almost no bearing on a page’s rank in Google.

That’s not to say that Google hasn’t developed more advanced algorithms to analyse content on a page, but certainly the traditional factors such as keywords being in title tags, h1/h2/h3 tags, etc. can be ignored when writing blog posts.

The main learning here for bloggers is that instead of worrying about search engines when you write your next blog post, you should focus 100% on the user.

Here’s the proof. Each ranking factor below is correlated to search engine ranking.

on page correlations

Check out all these articles in Darren’s resource on how to write a great post. Guess what? None of them talk about how users love a title tag stuffed with keywords or headings tags that are meaningless space-fillers designed solely for search engine spiders.

Finding 2. You gotta love link building

The only set of factors to have all the signals tested show a significant positive correlation was links.

Without a doubt, the single most important factor in gaining search engine ranking is building links to your blog.

Page Authority, an SEOMoz metric that models the PageRank for a given URL, was by far the most influential factor in the study. What this means is that it is not only important to build links to your homepage, but also to the posts you want to get rank well in Google.

When was the last time you wrote a guest post or created a viral infographic? How much time do you spend doing keyword research or doing repetitive, mundane tasks like manually optimizing posts for keyword density?

If there is one piece of action everybody who reads this post should take, it is without a doubt to create a link-building strategy for your blog.

The proof:

link related correlations

Finding 3. Domains still matter

There’s been a lot of scaremongering about exact match domains of late, but the fact is that Google still highly values EMDs that have high quality content on them.

That’s the key. If you have a blog and you plan to publish great content that users will love then a EMD can be a massive help in getting you to #1 for that big keyword.

After seeing this significant positive correlation between EMDs and ranking #1 in Google, I looked a little deeper at the domain name market and learnt that there were over 200,000 domains expiring every day.

Bloggers can catch dropping domains before they go back onto the market and create incredible sites with them, which will have a natural advantage over the competition. Matt Green wrote a great post about this tactic right here on Problogger.net.

The proof:

exact match domain correlations

Research in summary

I think the key learnings from all this data for bloggers can be summarised into one sentence: “write for your audience not the search engines, build links to your great content, and develop your blog on a great domain with incredible domain authority.”

Do you focus on SEO? What works to push your site up the search rankings? Share your thoughts on my research in the comments.

This guest post is by Mark Collier from www.DropMining.com and www.TheOpenAlgorithm.com