Sweet Fancy Moses, The Comments!

So it’s that time of the month (shut up!) when I need to write something clever here but you know what? I’m out of clever today.

However, recently I’ve been having fantastic conversations with my link builders about ways to keep our job interesting, and we’ve been coming up with some insanely silly discovery ideas and search terms, none of which I will repeat because the best ones are offensive and would make us look highly unprofessional. Sometimes we are. I’ve also been really, really enjoying some of the truly poor comments that I see on sites and that led me down a nostalgic SEO-Chicks comment-path, which is here for your viewing pleasure…wow, we had some good ones!! 3,389 ones to be exact.

Here are my favorites.

“You are freaking weird!” by Rob Kerry, going by evilgreenmonkey back then, which Lisa once confused with a donkey so the poor man had to endure that for donkey’s years.

“Some men find that attractive Lisa – just ask the trainer at my gym *winks* *LAUGHS*” by Judith, the little scoundrel.

“ wish I commonly misspelled only 100 words.” by David LaFerney

I am lovely, aren’t I?”  by Patrick Sexton.

“ha ha I’m laughing so hard I might wee myself…how’s that for attractive?” from, you guessed it, Lisa Myers!!

“I don’t mind kicking you up your backside by the way…” (this may have been mine)

“That white cat reminds me of Steve Winwood for some reason.” again mine, and possibly the oddest one I can think of.

“Sometimes the same word is an entirely different product…

chips — crisps

fries — chips

There are many other examples.” from g1smd. Truly he’s a soothsayer.

“WHAT? Do I look like a girl that likes PINK? I also had a question whether we made SEO chicks t-shirts in pink, now why the fuck would we do that? The site is green, why would be have pink t-shirts. If you can’t figure out that I’m a girl and you need colour coding you need your eyes checked.” yeah, Lisa again there.

“Does the flash drive for women come with a hook to hang a dish-cloth on maybe?” Ciaran Norris. Yeah watch out Australia, he’s coming fer ya!

“Decent post.” from someone called Daz. (thanks for the accolades Daz!!!!)

“I love your site. They really look very nice. The articles provided are long enough to provide great content but not so long as to be totally engrossing, if you know what I mean…. ” from Kuvashan. Hey thanks!! We never wanted to be totally engrossing. Also not sure about what the “they look really nice” refers to but I am frowning at you.

“I would have your balls on a plate” from Lisa, again, sigh…

“I have a mother your age, and I can tell you for a fact that she would regard you as an old cranky pants.” Ah, Jane Copland!!! My lovely Kiwi bear!!

“I’m done with this conversation. I have a daughter your age, and I can tell you for a fact that she would not have the same mindset for any type of business. If she did, she knows she would also get a spanking,…. just like the one you and others need as well.”  from the “who could forget him??” master Doug Heil. For the record, he didn’t get the pleasure of spanking any of us.

“I’ve seriously Tronned myself into the tertiary level navigation. Not even John Rambo could find me…” from Nichola Stott.

““maybe Tamar Weinberg?”” from Tamar Weinberg, in an infinite loop of commentizing.

And to conclude let’s revisit that most epic of photographics, the one of us as Spice Girls.

Aw yes!

The Controversy of Online Privacy

There have been a lot of discussions about online privacy recently, from those of us who work in the online world to newsrooms and parliaments. I want to take a look at what really matters to people when they’re online and highlight a few areas that are often overlooked.

Specifically, I’m looking at the cookie law (and flaws for webmasters), Google’s Privacy Policy (and flaws for users), and also some useful tips to help you understand things better (or see where Google’s got it wrong!). (more…)

Turning 5: Happy Birthday To The SEO Chicks!

On May 30, 2007, Lisa Myers wrote the first post for the new SEO Chicks site. At that time we were three: Lisa, myself, and Anita Chaperon. Lisa was working for Base One, I was working as a contract SEO for a company in London where Anita handled PPC. I’m not sure that any of us had written much back then (I’m pretty sure that I’d only written one online article, and that was about a band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!) but we felt there was a dearth of visible female writers in SEO at the time so we decided to fix that.

We’ve been through several changes at SEO Chicks over the years, most notably with our regular bloggers who currently consist of Lisa, myself, Judith Lewis, Hannah Smith, Nichola Stott, Annabel Hodges, and Anna Lewis. Past bloggers included Anita, Jane Copland, Stephanie Weingart, Donna Fontenot, Rebecca Kelley, Sarah Carling, Shimrit Elisar, and Rebecca Weeks. We’ve had a redesign but hey, we kept the green shirts (we just got newer ones.)

Last year for our 4th anniversary, Sam Murray even donned a lovely wig for us. See? We totally know how to rock a celebration.

For this anniversary I thought I would spare you the links to past posts that I thought were awesome, and focus on what this blog means to me and has meant to me throughout the past 5 years. I am going to channel my innermost sappiness.

First of all, every blogging opportunity that I have currently can be traced back to SEO Chicks. When we first started, a few people (all male, ahem) made some derogatory remarks about the concept of an all-female blog with “chicks” in the name, finding it too cutesy and thinking that we wouldn’t be taken seriously. Back then, the original three of us worked for other people. Today, Lisa and I own our own companies. I write for Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and my own company blog on a regular basis and have contributed to Search Engine Journal, Search Engine People, Search Marketing Gurus, and State of Search. I kind of love this writing thing. Lisa’s accomplishments are too numerous to mention but she has spoken at just about every conference that I know of, co-founded State of Search, she’s organized the beJaysis out of some after-conference parties, and was last year’s Search Personality of the Year at the UK Search Awards. She has been the driving force behind this blog, both in terms of handling the setup, pursuing the redesign and logo, and trying to organize a group of women who are doing a billion things every day. She’s the backbone of the blog, and when you mention the SEO Chicks, I can almost guarantee you that she’s the name that pops into someone’s mind.

We have some serious talent on board. Nichola runs her own company, The Media Flow. Judith Lewis (another one I have to give props to for promoting the hell out of the site and just generally being a serious sweetie pie), Anna Lewis, Annabel Hodges, and Hannah Smith are all very visible in the search world and work for some rockin’ companies themselves. They speak at conferences, write about the industry, and can hold their own with anyone.

I also have to say that the best part about this blog is not the blog itself…it’s the group. It’s the truly amazing support that we get from each other, and it’s the friendship that we have formed with each other. We are each thrilled with another one of us is successful and it’s very genuine. It’s annoying for me to be in NC and not be able to see everyone more than once a year, but that doesn’t seem to matter the second I see them all. I just wait for those drunken conference-party phone calls really. Oh, and the chance to take photos in the toilet again..what the hell started that anyway??? Anna, get ready for it sister.

Anyway, to our readers and those of you who have supported us through the past 5 years, we’d all like to say thank you. Thanks for reading, thanks for coming up to us at shows and parties and actually seeming happy to meet us. To the rest of my co-bloggers, thank you for continuing to be there. </sap>


A Process for Creating Linkbait

So, before we kick off it’s probably useful to define what I mean by linkbait – here’s a quick and dirty definition from yours truly:

“Linkbait is content which people *want* to share and link to.”

For the sake of clarity when I’m talking about linkbait, I’m talking about link-worthy content. This includes, but is not limited to infographics (not that I’m an infographic-hater; actually it’s a form which I like and have had success with) but it’s not the only type of creative content that you can do.

Before you kick off…

Before I get stuck right into the process, I’d strongly advise you to be open and honest about creative link building strategies.

  • Make sure your boss (or your client) knows that there are risks associated with creative content (i.e. it can be difficult to predict how many links you’ll get).
  • Manage their expectations – are they expecting 20,000 links? That could be hard to deliver.
  • Set metrics ahead of time (e.g. target social shares, target linking domains etc) so you all know what ‘success’ looks like.


Social Media Can Kill Your SEO Efforts

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google, Yahoo and more all are, or have, social networking components. Many brands, shops and individuals are jumping on the social media bandwagon and trying to market as best as they can through the next biggest thing on many on these platforms. What often isn’t being taken into account is the harm social media could be doing to your brand.

Social media is fun, engaging and deceptively easy to get in to but difficult to market over effectively. Due to the ease and simplicity of the platform, it can seem at times as though everyone who can log on has become a social media marketing expert. The ease of entry belies the difficulty in engaging appropriately which has been exemplified in the past with Habitat UK, Vodafone UK and countless other social media gaffes that do sometimes irreparable brand damage.

Social media brand damage can go on to impact your brand online as CNN and Eurostar both experienced. When searching on “Welsh couple Mumbai” and related terms, the false story that CNN put a couple’s life at risk dominated the search results. Even though this was false, social media enabled the fake story to be picked up and repeated as commentary and news in countless other blogs. Search results for both brands became affected.

Social media problems resulting in unfavourable search results then becomes a reputation management issue, sometimes even requiring professional SEO help as the search results become polluted with negative messages about your brand. In this way, and others, social media can harm your SEO efforts, making it even harder to present a clean brand image in the SERPs (search engine result pages).

Social media can also help your brand. Engaging over social media, including commenting on blogs, tweeting, blogging and other methods of social media engagement can not only improve SEO but also help build positive brand engagement, creating passionate advocates who can be activated when something does go wrong. Having a bloggers launch of a product as well as a media one can result in more column inches, more buzz and higher rankings. This also helps with cleaning up bad search results as positive buzz pushes out negative buzz.

Social media itself also helps SEO through link building and citations. Each mention without a link as well as each link all goes into the big algorithm on calculation and results in higher rankings. While a link helps more, a mention still helps with relevancy, trust and authority. Links from social media do help and count so positive buzz about your brand will help your SEO, rather than harming it.

Ensuring your social media efforts are targeted and focused is important as well. Creating relevancy or relationships with unrelated products or words will not help your SEO efforts. If you sell biscuits and you target your content at people interested in caravans, while people who caravan may eat biscuits, you will not rank higher for biscuits no matter how many caravan-related links you get.

Social media marketing requires a plan before engaging just as SEO does. Keyword research is the most important thing any site can have done for it in order to better focus efforts and targeting. This keyword list should then be used then engaging through social media. This type of focused targeting means instead of harming your SEO, social media can help your SEO.

Don’t sweat the small stuff with SEO though. Focus on the low hanging fruit and after you have done your keyword research, change title tags to be more targeted, add to your on-page content and ensure links in to the site have keywords where possible. Citations are growing in importance so don’t worry if you don’t get a link – a mention will help.

Social mdia can be as much boon as bane but if you plan properly it can be a huge help.

What It’s Like To Run A Link Agency

Even though we’ve seen massive shakeups in the link building world lately, links are still what a lot of clients want. Link building is our main business (so that’s lucky for us) but when we have quoted projects where link building takes a backseat, no one is interested. Due to excessive client demand, more and more SEOs (and people with zero experience who see the chance to get in there by doing something that honestly does not require excessive knowledge) are getting into links. In many cases this means that they say they build links, but in reality, they outsource that to someone like us. In some cases, it’s a lot of idle talk from people who think that it’s easy work and stop doing it after they get a proper link building job. In other cases, we’re hearing a lot of chatter from people who don’t have any real link building clients.

I am here to tell you that link building is a practice, not a theory. It’s maddeningly tedious work and I never intended to run a link agency, but hey, here I am, and I do quite love it. I just don’t like to see something so difficult and painstaking become glamorous because I don’t think that it’s an honest portrayal of the reality of working as a link builder or running an agency.

For example, there’s the issue with my own beliefs and opinions vs keeping people employed. I’ve turned down one client due to thinking that what he wanted me to promote was extremely unethical, but I also take on clients that might bother someone else but don’t happen to bother me. We are extremely lucky to have enough work to keep all of us employed but if I lost half of my revenue, would I take on a client like the one I turned down, if it meant keeping all of my people employed? He’s a bad example as what he does for a living is something that I consider to be life-threatening behavior, but let’s say I didn’t believe in the politics of a certain group (like the Republican Party.) If they offered me $10k a month and the alternative to taking that client was firing 4 link builders, I’d like to think that I would take it. It would make my dad happy at least.

Managing an agency like this is also quite different to doing the link building itself, as I’m lucky in many ways that my days are not spent chasing link targets. However, the idea of not having to bear the responsibility for all of it is quite appealing at times. I have a great office manager and some seriously kick-ass staff, but I still can’t truly turn off when I go on vacation. Clients still email me, people still have questions about their hours/need time off/want my opinion, and the buck definitely stops here. I’ve worked for people who would throw me under a bus to make themselves look blame-free but I’m not that kind of person, which means I usually stress out over just about everything. I’m the one a client will bitch to if they hate what we’ve done, and I’m the one who will lose money if they refuse to pay. I’m the one whose reputation is screwed if I really mess up.

How much to educate? How to recruit? These are tough questions. We don’t hire experienced link builders because, well, we’ve never actually interviewed anyone with link building experience. We train everyone in-house and everyone gets the exact same basic training whether they go to work for our link team or our content team. Some of them are interested in SEO, some of them don’t give a crap. As long as they perform to the standards we’ve set for each person, I truly don’t care. I LOVE it when someone expresses an interest in SEO though, and I love answering their questions and seeing them get excited about something that I feel quite passionately about, but I also understand that to some people, a job is just a job. Recruiting, when we work this way, is also a bit tricky as it’s hard for us to know what to look for until the person walks in the door and talks to us. Sadly, we aren’t a profitable enough agency where I could offer a competitive experienced SEO salary, but hey, why would anyone like that want to crank out link requests and write guest posts all day? Our hiring, even though I complain here and there, is one of the things that I am happiest with, as while I could not lay out what it is about a person that makes me want to hire him or her, I just kind of feel it.

And ah, all that extra time for me to spend researching since I have to keep 20 people plus the clients informed…yeah that is fun. Honestly, it IS fun, but it’s a lot of work. If a client calls my mobile and asks about the latest update that was just written about 30 minutes ago, I better know about it. If we do anything that gets totally devalued by an algorithmic update, I need to put the brakes on asap and regroup. I sometimes spend 75% of my day reading articles, talking to other SEOs about things, or writing (and doing my best to make sure no one else has just written the exact same thing.)

Being responsible for the brand when I am not the only one controlling it is also problematic at times. I’m very lucky that this is not a current issue but we’ve had clients who worked with other agencies for various things (including different types of link building other than what we were doing) but when rankings dropped, guess who got blamed? That’s right. We’ve been blamed, we’ve had clients leave in a huff, and we’ve had to figure out problems caused by OTHER people working on the accounts. It’s hard enough to figure out where you’ve gone wrong, but figuring out where someone else did…that’s a serious pain, and it eats up loads of time.

Lest you think it’s all sadness and rain here, I will say that running an agency is still something that I love. At its worst, it’s still not as bad for working for someone else who’s a total jerk. I recently had dinner with a friend and former colleague at a place where we used to work, and she said that she had no idea of how bad that place was until she was free of it. It was honestly like an abusive relationship where you later wonder why you let that guy smack you around. If our kids have a school performance, we’re there. If we need to do something non-work related on a Friday, we can do it (although we usually pay for it Saturday or Sunday nights) and that is very important to me, having children and a dog and a cat and a rabbit and chickens. Something is almost always going wrong somewhere, and if we had to work a strict 9 to 5 M-F schedule, there’s no way we could survive. To me, all the hard work pays off. It’s just not easy. We’ve made massively stupid decisions, had horrible tax issues our second year (due to not knowing what we were doing the first year), had personal financial stress because we’re self-employed and even though the company does very well, we’re still SELF-EMPLOYED, which seems to kind of screw you in the eyes of some banks. (I’m not sure how that is any worse than working for a company where you have no say and can easily be fired, but whatever.) None of us have formal business training (actually one of my employees is about to get her MBA so I may hassle her a bit more) but we’ve learned as we’ve gone along, and we’re still learning.

If that’s the kind of life you want, go for it…just don’t underestimate what it takes to succeed and to stay successful.