A Review of The Link Building Book by Paddy Moogan

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Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past week or so, you’ve doubtlessly heard that Paddy Moogan has written a book about Link Building :)

I read Paddy’s book this week and figured I write a review here.

I ought to say by way of a disclaimer that I do work with Paddy at Distilled, however this review is impartial – he’s not asked me to write this; nor have I received any kind of financial inducement to do so.

So, what do you get for your $37?

Over 65,000 words (or 287 pages) of Link Building goodness. The book includes sections on the following:

  • Link building basics
  • The history of link building
  • What you need to know about PageRank
  • The anatomy of a link – what makes a good (and bad) link
  • Planning and executing a link building campaign
  • How to scale link building safely
  • Penalties
  • Building a link building team
  • Outsourcing your link building
  • Making link building happen
  • Social signals and their effect on link building
  • The concept of AuthorRank
  • Link building techniques
  • Link building tools
  • Link building case studies
  • Link building resources
  • Blogs to follow for link building tips
  • People to follow on Twitter for link building
  • Google Webmaster Tools Videos on link building
  • SEO conferences that include link building sessions

(more…)

Earning Links in “Boring” Sectors

I recently spoke at the UK search conference on a panel about linkbuilding in 2013. Most of the panel (myself included) were much of the opinion that any business can earn its links through the stories it has to tell however an audience member brought up a very valid objection related to industries that might be considered boring, particularly in sectors where an almost exclusive paid linking strategy still prevails. Whilst I can’t suggest that anyone managing a client in such a sector should take a stand and buck the trend (that would have to be a decision taken under one’s own counsel), I know from personal experience that even when your competitors seem to have no other link strategy than a paid one you can still compete in the SERPs with a quality-led marketing strategy rather than a paid-link only strategy. In fact this is a topic that has been addressed many times and in great detail so Imma just leave this one here… with examples from such sectors!

Instead I think there are two issues at play here, the first being unreasonable or old-school volume targets that simply don’t reflect what algorithms are rewarding today. Yes you can rank a site (albeit temporarily) for terms like “car insurance” or “roulette” with a paid volume-strategy and that’s because it’s a flipping weighted algorithm and half a million mediocre paid links “weigh” more than five hundred, good-quality earned links, but the former strategy is not future-proof. Google in particular are getting better and better at detecting and dis-incentivising this practise; plus there is always a tipping point at which six hundred, seven hundred, one thousand good-quality earned links will “weigh” more than those competitor volume-links. If you’re (or your client is) in it for the long haul and marketing a credible brand then really why risk a strategy that could a huge chunk of your traffic out of circulation, plus court the kind of negative attention your client could do without?

The second issue at play that I really wanted to address here is the notion that some businesses and sectors are so boring that they have nothing to say and no audience to say it to. I’d like to challenge that notion fundamentally and look at tactics and resources for earning links when everyone around you is paying for theirs.

  1. One man’s meat is another man’s horse burger.

Friend: “How was work today?”

Me: “Awesome. We discovered some odd syntax in a new clients’ robots.txt file that was causing a weird index loop and creating all kind of duplicate content issues in the SERPs.”

Friend: “Kill me now.”

You get the point of course. Just because a business or sector may be dry as a bone to us it is a source of passion to them and their clients. The fact that a business is a business means that there is a customer base; a desire for the product, a problem that is solved a demand that is met. So what if it doesn’t float our boat?

At the same conference we had in fact just heard tell of a perfect example of this, presented by PushOn’s SImon Wharton, who talked us through their award-winning case-study for client Little Greene. Little Greene make paint. Paint; a topic so boring that we use the drying of it as an analogy for the most boring activity imaginable. Yet as Wharton detailed, to Little Greene paint (and the pride that they take in the richness and range of colours produced) is a point of pride and passion for this business. Little Greene make very high quality paint, which is used by premium decorating services, restoration experts and is approved by English Heritage. Check out this video of the making of Little Greene’s most recent advertisement for a great example of a way to make something that could have been quite pedestrian; instead, visually stunning and an engaging vehicle to convey the passion and quality-commitment of Little Greene.

2. Trade Media

So a business or sector may seem boring to us, however in any sector where there is business to be had there is a trade press about it. One of the oft-cited reasons for difficulties in earning links in such sectors is that there is a lack of online media to approach. Whilst it’s certainly true that there might be less noise, fewer independent blogs and less consumer titles focusing on such products and sectors; that’s just life. There is however, always a thriving (albeit relatively small) community of trades media. I therefore invoke rule 34 on the notion that there’s a lack of online media to approach. If there is business of it, then there’s trade media of it.

Here’s a few little gems…

The Grocer - For all your horse-burger needs

Tunnels and Tunnelling International - Ya dig me?

Microwave Engineering Europe – Not microwaves, but microwaves.

Timber Trades Journal – Got wood

Compound Semiconductors – Not Silicon Semiconductors you fool. That’s here.

Cabinet Maker – I shit you not.

 

3.  Great Content

Even if your business or industry may be seen as boring, or have little direct appeal outside of its’ own eccentric audience that doesn’t mean that exciting, funny and imaginative content idea are off limits to you. There’s many a B2B or “boring” brand that has created a cult or counter-culture following out of good content. Now this point has been done before in great detail by our very own Hannah, over at SEOMoz, so do read her piece on those companies in “boring” niches who are kicking it.

If you can’t be arsed, then I’m sure she won’t mind me paraphrasing one of the best examples featured in that piece, which is that of Readers Sheds. Yes, it is a thing! It is a thing created by Cuprinol. You know that boring company that produce wood-stain? Maybe the product itself is a bit boring, but what about the very wood we stain? Does that not have its’ exciting applications? I wonder if this is quite a “UK” type thing? We are a nation of eccentrics after-all. Aside. As my fellow-blogger Hannah explains “…people are really passionate about their humble sheds and some people’s sheds are pretty damn amazing. With this is mind, to appeal to all the sheddies out there Reader Sheds run an annual competition to find the shed of the year”.

What’s not to get excited about?

4. Buzz the Brand 

Another way of approaching so-called “boring” products is to look at building a buzz around the brand itself. Ask yourself, five years ago could you ever have imagined anyone expressing excitement about the arrival of a new order of business cards? No. Me neither, but then along came Moo. Moo have created a vibrant brand that offers a great buying experience and customer service, so that the product itself is almost immaterial. Honestly, if you don’t believe me, do a twitter search for [thanks+moo] or [excited+moo] and see for yourself.

Remember people, these are business cards… business cards

Moo Cards Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Take it to the Bridge Human Conclusion

This is a tip that I picked up from PR supremo Claire Thompson of WavesPR. When faced with a product that’s very dull, or has no complete application in and of itself (such as concrete) Claire advocates taking the product to its’ human-conclusion.

As an example imagine a business that makes thermostatic controls. That’s not exciting, right? But what if you talk to your clients and find out where these integrated components end up? What if it turns out that their biggest customer manufactures incubators for premature infants? Then you’ve got a story like “Thermo Controllers Help Save 5000 Premature Babies in Contract to Supply Medi-Systems Ltd.”

If your client manufactures a product that’s part of a chain, talk to them about where their products end up. What’s the real world application? It’s a marketing approach that’s worked very well for companies like Intel. So very few of us would ever need to consider or touch a Xeon Processor, yet we know through the extensive multi-platform marketing efforts of Intel, that their products help our devices work. And we’re very attached to our various devices in an emotional (as well as functional) way.

Summary

I’d like to suggest that there’s really no such thing as a truly boring product, business or niche and that with a little thought and creativity we can devise stories and campaigns that can resonate with a waiting audience (Little Greene) or can gain a broad cult following (Cuprinol/Readers Sheds) or can excite and reinvigorate a once non-product (Moo Cards). The stories and campaigns we devise need to be positioned and marketed so that they attract and earn the links, citations and brand awareness that we’re looking to achieve for our clients. Really, I don’t think there’s any excuse for sticking to a link strategy that relies purely on paid links because there’s no other way. It’s just about creating and teasing that story out!

Welcome to the SEO Chicks Jackie Hole

The SEO Chicks have got an exciting addition; the lovely Jackie Hole! In fact, we don’t really know why she wasn’t already an SEO Chick from before. How did that happen, she sure “feels” like one of us.

VikingIf you have been to any conference the past 2 years you MUST have seen Jackie, she has basically been to pretty much every conference in Search for the past couple of years. A travelling SEO if you will. I believe the Icelandic have adopted her after several RIMC conferences, she must be an honorary Viking  by now (surely). See pic to left. Jackie runs her own SEO & PPC consulting business and has over 8 years experience in search, working for several agencies in the UK. As most SEOs she had a “former life” where she was a chef and a musician, naturally ending up in search via the passion to figure out what the heck the search engines are up to. Jackie is also a State of Search blogger and editor and a very good writer. Hence we convinced her to join the SEO Chicks, by twisting her arm, shoulder and anything else needing twisting. She obliged happily which in itself is a testament to her insanity, which we like.

Jackie, welcome to the SEO Chicks! If you are not already following Jackie on Twitter and Google +, please do so. Hmm, that sounds a bit like a threat.

How To Better Crowdsource Your Next Post

Crowdsourcing interests me for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a great way to get multiple people to promote content (yes, I’m always thinking about that.) Some of my favorite evergreen content pieces have been crowdsourced and I’ve noticed that when I search to see what’s recently been said about specific topics, those pieces still appear at the top of the SERPs.

crowd

With that in mind, I thought I’d ask a few SEOs to fill out a quick survey, with the questions being listed below:

1. What are your thoughts on crowdsourced pieces? Does it make you think that the author is being slack and taking a shortcut by asking everyone else’s opinions, or do you think that it adds more value to what could be a one-sided post?

2. What factors do you take into consideration when deciding which people you’ll ask to contribute?

3. What causes YOU to contribute to a crowdsourced post request?

4. What would cause you to immediately reject the chance to contribute?

5. What’s your favorite crowdsourced post and why?

For my people of interest, I grabbed a quick list of SEO contacts that I trust and took a small random selection of them to email. Since I love crowdsourced pieces (both contributing to and consuming) I thought I’d get a quick overview of how others feel about them. The results were exactly what I was hoping for.

44.4% of respondents love crowdsourced pieces. No one hates them or thinks the author is just being a slack ass (I was honestly worried about that one.) 55.6% think they add value to what would have been a one-sided piece.

What makes a person decide whom to ask: 100% said that they’d ask people who are subject matter experts. Only one person said they’d ask a person just because he or she participated before.

What causes you to accept the offer to participate: 76.9% said that they’d do it if the person asking was nice. Only 15.4% said they’d do it just for the link. 46.2% said they’d accept if the subject matter was interesting, 30.8% said they’d do it if the subject matter was controversial, and 46.2% said they’d do it if the topic had not been covered to death. 23.1% also said they’d do it if they had nothing else to do. (I like those guys. Boredom is a great motivator.)

What would cause you to say no immediately: 58.3% said they’d decline if the person asking “is an idiot.” Good. That’s my main reason for declining. 25% said they’d decline if they didn’t know the person asking, and the same amount said they’d decline if the subject had been covered to death recently. 16.7% said they’d decline if there were either typos in the email and 33.3% said they’d decline if the person addressed them by the wrong name. I’d add my two cents into those two reasons myself.

Favorite crowdsourced posts:

http://www.alessiomadeyski.com/now-thats-what-seos-call-music/ got multiple votes

http://pointblankseo.com/creative-link-building also got multiple votes (I’d add my vote here as well)

http://01100111011001010110010101101011.co.uk/2012/01/the-best-seo-interviews-you-will-read-in-2012/

http://stokedseo.co.uk/2012/12/05/seo-2013/

The interesting bit about the favorites though? Most people didn’t remember one or didn’t have the link to hand. What does that say?    Obviously bias will be a factor and all of those three posts mentioned contained responses from my survey respondents. We may pay closer attention when we’re a part of something, no?

My absolute favorite crowdsourced piece is Rae Hoffman-Dolan’s annual Link Building With The Experts series. As a link builder, it’s awesome to read what everyone has to say each year, as these are serious experts and I am humbled to have been included this past year. As I said, I also added my vote to Jon Cooper’s piece (and I’ve used it in a presentation as well) because it’s massive, it’s fascinating, and it is full of responses from people that I respect the hell out of. Alessio’s music piece was fantastic because it was DIFFERENT, and because I’m obsessed with music. The chance to see what everyone else listens to was quite cool even though Bill Sebald did list “Cherry Pie” by Warrant and I find that almost completely unacceptable. Sean’s interview piece was incredibly well done (like all his stuff) and quirky. Gaz’s post was mentioned for the reason “because of the sheer scale of it.” As you can see, these posts have something in common: they’re different from all the other stuff out there. They include both industry “names” and people who aren’t as well-known (yet.)

So based on this how can you better do crowdsourced posts?

1. Be nice, as people are more likely to respond to you if you’re not an asshole or an idiot.

2. Make your topic interesting/controversial/not-totally-overdone.

3. If you’ve never interacted with someone, don’t expect them to immediately rush to participate. I’m not saying that you should only ask your friends of course, but generally speaking, if your first interaction is “hey can you do something for me?” it’s not going to go well.

4. Make sure you’re addressing the correct recipient or you could do what I did, which is lump them all into “People of Interest” which, thank God, didn’t seem to offend anyone. Check for typos. I might answer some questions for a post about the best rarebit but not about the best rabbit. Well…I might answer that one too actually. It’s Blazer Taco, MY rabbit.

Blazer Taco, rabbit of destruction

5. Time it so that you’re asking people when there’s not a lot going on. For example, if Google has just unleashed another crippling algorithmic update and people are crying online, don’t send them an email asking if they want to answer 10 questions about their favorite Moz post from last year. Actually don’t ever write a post asking that question.

Thanks to everyone who contributed. I’m not sure who you all are as I can’t see who responds, but thanks.

 

 

 

 

Troubleshooting Common Google Analytics Problems & Questions

I wonder how many questions we all ask every day? I imagine it must be quite a lot. From ‘how are you?’ to ‘do you like this song?’, ‘would I want a link from this site?’ to ‘would you like to sign the deal?’. We are inquisitive and would never succeed in anything if we didn’t ask questions. So I wanted to take some of the common questions I get asked about Google Analytics and answer them for you.

My bounce rate is fantastic, is it because my website is so good?

Usually, a very low bounce rate is a sign that there is a problem with the tracking code. Around or under 10% suggests there are two pageviews being tracked on the page affected, the simple way to check this is to look at the source code and use the Find function to search for UA-, if there is more than one they need to be using what’s called ‘roll up reporting’ where each tracker is labelled to send the data in to different accounts. If there are two unmodified versions of the code then removing one set, or implementing roll up reporting should fix you unusually low bounce rate.

Additionally, bounce rate can be affected by Event Tracking as this counts as an interaction on the page, so always bear this in mind when installing Event Tracking code.

Can I track form submissions?

There are different methods you can use to track form submissions. The best being to have the form generate a thank you page to confirm form completion which says thanks to your user for filling in the form, and also generates on its own URL that you can use to set up a URL specific goal.

If you can’t set up a thank you page then you can use Event Tracking to track when people click the submit button. You can set it out as simply as this and place it within the code for the submit button:

onClick=”_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Contact Form', 'Submit']);”

 Can I track clicks on this link?

Again, nice and easy, tracking clicks on links to external websites should be done using Event Tracking, as above, but this time you could use code like this:

onClick=”_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Advertisement', 'External Link Clicked', 'SEO Chick Link']);”

What is (not set)?

This usually means that some ads running are not tracked correctly.  If you’re using AdWords, check that you have set up Auto Tagging, or manually tagged the ads with the correct information, and that you have linked Adwords and Analytics correctly. If you are using another advertising platform, the ads are likely to need to be tagged with tracking code manually. Tagging can be manually created using Google’s URL Tool Builder.

Why is my website on the list of referral sites?

Your website will appear on the list of referral sites when one or more of the pages of your site do not have the tracking code on them By clicking the site where it is listed you can sometimes find out which pages the problem is on, however, only the pages seeing traffic will be shown so it’s best to run a full check on your site to see if there is the correct UA code on every page. One way to do this is to crawl a list of URLs of your site using Screaming Frog SEO Spider and applying a custom setting to find the pages with your UA code and those without.

Where has all my traffic gone?!

If you see a drop in activity, there are a number of factors that could have caused this. You will need to rule out each one to identify the cause of the decrease in activity.

First, I would recommend you check for whether it is a decrease from all traffic sources, or one in particular. If it is just one, you can then look for why this might have happened – did a Google algorithm update reduce your Google organic traffic? Did you run out of money in your AdWords account? Did traffic from a referral site suddenly reduce?

If all traffic sources decreased relatively equally, I would then go on to check whether all pages of the site saw a similar decrease to each other or whether it was a certain set of pages that were affected.

Once you know which pages were affected, check that the tracking code is correct  across the site. Ask the developer if any changes have been made to the site that might have affected the tracking. If the tracking all looks perfect now, it may be that duplicate code has just been removed, or that another domain was also using that UA code.

To check which domains are using the UA code for your account follow these navigation steps:

  1. Audience
  2. Technology
  3. Network
  4. Hostname (the link above the data)

You can then see a list of the sites that have recorded visits with your UA code. Translation websites are normal to see here, as are your various subdomains if you have any. Check however, that there are no other sites on this list,

If you cannot identify the cause from the above, start looking through the other reports, such as device, browser, location, to spot any anomalies. On more than one occasion I have found that the drop off is specific to one location and browser (through creating an advanced segment for those that saw the decrease together). There will sometimes be a low new visit rate, meaning that one computer has been accessing the site a significant amount but then changes the habit.

Why is the data from Analytics different to AdWords?

Never fully trust the data if you didn’t go out and get it yourself. I always work to the fact that Analytics and AdWords PPC data will be different and there are many reasons to support this:

  • Analytics can only track visits from browsers with JavaScript and cookies enabled
  • AdWords tracks clicks, not visits
  • Clicks in AdWords could result in no page loading, or the user leaving before it loads
  • Invalid clicks in AdWords are filtered out of the reports, but may have tracked as visits in Analytics
  • Conversion data will be different due to Analytics using last click attribution and AdWords using first click attribution

So there you have the answers to some common analytics problems. I’ve not linked to a guide to each solution otherwise I might as well have just listed them to start with (nothing to do with the fact that I wrote this on the train with no internet connection, honest!). I hope this helps answer some of your queries and get you the information you need from your Google Analytics.

Overly Long Post About Why You Should Talk More To Non-SEOs

I’ve always struggled with explaining what I do to people who aren’t in the SEO industry, and generally just say that I have an SEO company (blank stare or, as Paul Madden likes to call it, the “dog stick stare”) or work in online advertising. Sometimes I do get more specific and tell them that I build those clickable bits of text on websites. If I’m lucky, I get a nervous slow nod intended to shut me up so they can move on to talking about how awesome they are.

While this is slightly challenging, it’s nothing compared to doing an hourlong presentation to people who need to be taught a basic outline of what I’ve been doing for year, which I did recently at the Parenting Media Association conference in Chicago. I could have spent a semester on this information yet I had to condense it, relate it to what these guys are doing, and make it interesting. For a person like me (wordy, annoyingly wordy, prone to using long-winded sentences to make a short story long, etc.) this was seriously challenging but I realized that it’s probably one of the most beneficial work experiences I’ve ever had.

As wordy as I am, I’m highly annoyed when other people are the same way. I try to blame it on my earlier social work training (which was solution-focused and bigger words and longer sentences don’t get someone helped faster) but in reality, I think it’s because I am highly impatient and have trouble being concise and an efficient user of words. Being online so much is causing my social skills to further erode. Just ask my husband, who tries to tell me about his latest interesting dream and is rewarded with a sharp “what’s the bottom line here?? Could you actually scream or not??”

Hemingway

I always hated Ernest Hemingway anyway.

I’m devolving further as you can see so let’s get back on track and I’ll explain why I loved having the chance to organize my thoughts in such a way that someone who had no clue about link building could start to successfully build links. (And as it turned out, they had way more of a clue than I thought they would, which was a lovely and fun surprise.)

When you can’t assume that someone will understand what you’re talking about, you tend to slow down and think about it more clearly. You can better see the breakdowns in logic and actually think about terms instead of spouting off technical acronyms and catch phrases.

When you’re dealing with people who aren’t just sitting there waiting for you to make a mistake, you realize that if you do say something that’s incorrect, you might cause a lot of problems. For example, if you don’t keep up with Google’s latest updates and you stupidly tell a group of people that using exact match anchor text for 75% of their links is the best idea, you could really screw them. Obviously if you said this to a group of SEOs, you’d get smacked, but when SEOs are not there to check you, you will hopefully research what you’re saying and make sure it’s as correct as possible.

You might realize that what you think is the most important upcoming social network isn’t. I am not a Google + fan really, but I do understand that to do well in Google, I have to play by their rules so I’ve sucked it up and tried to use it. However, I fell into the same trap I fall into a lot, and that’s thinking that everyone knows what I know and thinks the way I think. Most people don’t give a flip about G+ but they’ll use the hell out of Pinterest, a platform that I personally detest. Witness my Bald Board, which hasn’t even been updated recently!! I can’t keep up with all the sheer amazing baldness in the world but based on the last James Bond flick, you may be seeing Ralph Fiennes there soon. In my session with the parenting media group, I asked who used G+. I didn’t see a show of hands. I asked about Pinterest and almost everyone used it. Think about it though…for that niche, Pinterest is going to be much more important since their audience wants to see recipes, crafts they can make with the kids, etc. Recipes and crafts don’t translate as well for G+ and by and large, moms who want parenting content aren’t all jumping on G+ like a duck on a june bug.

I’ve always believed that if a completely clueless site owner emails me and isn’t a condescending asshole, I should do my best to at least point him or her in the right direction as far as finding a competent SEO with openings is concerned. There are so many loudmouthed know-nothings out there and it’s frustrating to just say no, I don’t have room, but best of luck finding someone who does, so I generally try and send these potential clients to someone that I know isn’t going to screw them over further. Most good SEOs are busy as hell these days so it’s getting harder to do that, which has caused me to do a bit of quick and free digging just to see if there is anything I can immediately point to as being a reason these sites are suffering. Many times it’s obvious, as they have backlink profiles full of nothing but spammy footer links on irrelevant sites, or they have an IT guy who forgot to remove the no index nofollow on the whole site. These site owners don’t understand when I say “you really need unique titles and you have some messy 301s going on” so I have to break it down into extremely simplistic little bits of instruction and explanation. You’ve no idea how beneficial that’s been for me, as since I came from a programming background, a lot of technical jargon is an ingrained part of me and I forget that not everyone immediately knows what a crawl issue is.

I also have made the mistake of not always educating my link builders about things that may not immediately impact them on the job. To be honest, some of them probably don’t care and if they’re still doing well and building great links, I’d rather not annoy them. Some of them do care though, and while I feel pedantic explaining why a link one of them got is so good in my eyes, the feedback from my own feedback is always very positive, and it makes me realize what a disservice I’ve done them when I haven’t always explained myself. Again, it helps me, too.

Also I’d like to thank Rae Hoffman from Pushfire for allowing me to use her fantastically efficient socialization plan in my presentation, which saved me from having to write one, gave me a better version of my own plan for my own work, and elicited knowing nods when I mentioned her name. You can read that here: