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Tim Nash
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« on: Jan 30, 2007, 10:32:10 am »

Hi guys Tim Nash here from Venture Skills I wrote this article which is part of a series originally to go in the tutorials database and then realised it was for programming only Nikolas suggested adding them here. In many ways this is a also a preview to my new book which is out in May, many of the ideas in these articles which I will post over a few days are expanded upon on the book, along with many more.
Disclaimer ? The author take no responsibility for your site, its rankings or any thing that may result from you reading this article. If your site stops working, loses rankings or drops out of the rankings this is entirely the site owner or relevant bodies responsibility. Sorry disclaimer needs to be there however unpleasant Smiley


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Contents
  • Part 1 ? Before you start,
  • Part 2 making your site searchable!
  • Part 3 ? Preparing for Links
  • Part 4 Link Baiting
  • Part 5 Getting those links

Part 1 ? Before you start
Can't be bothered to read this, then try the podcast, for the human touch and more ideas, part 1 is up now you can download it here
I know I'm to late but before you start developing a site is a the time to be thinking about reputation management but what is it?

Quote
Reputation management is the organisation and marketing of your site|brand or name. Its a more rounded method to site promotion using search engine optimisation/marketing, copywriting, advertisement and some basic psychology. Reputation management is not just about manipulating one site to the top of a SERP (search engine result page) for a given keyword string but about attracting visitors and promoting a brand.
In short the keywords of reputation management are; exposure, branding, perception

Throughout this series we will be discussing primarily exposure and perception but branding is as important but is perhaps covered in more mainstream articles though where appropriate we will talk about the more technical side of branding. So on with the show

Call to Action
A 'Call to Action' is simply what you want a site visitor to do while on your site, it could be you would like them to click on your advertisement, sign up for a news letter or buy a product via your e-store. What ever your call to action every site should have one and every page should have one, they might be the same action they might not but until you know what you want your visitors to do you can't plan a site or build a site.
If you find this difficult think about the type of site your developing is it;
  • Vanity sites be it a company or individual these sites are simple promotional sites
  • commerce sites, the objective is sell products or services
  • Portals, bring information together
  • communities
  • info sites
Each of the above site types and therefore their 'call to action' will be different commerce sites are obvious they want you to place your credit card details in the box, communities want visitors to join and participate but what about the others do they have a global call to action? Once you have worked out why your site should exist and what its call to action is you can start to plan your site and its long term promotional strategy.
Write down your 'Call to action' we will return to it later in the series in a big way.

Buying a domain
This has been done to death so I won't cover it much more then saying make sure you do have one or more of your principle keywords in the name (a principle keyword is branding keyword so Venture and Skills are principle keywords for us.) a few other ideas include
  • Keep it short myawesomedomainnameisgreat.com may trip of the tongue but not the fingers, the shorter the better.
  • If you already have an idea of keywords, try to include them in the name.
  • If your a company or organisation use your name
  • It doesn't matter if you use hyphens in a domain name
  • If you are buying a non .com domain as your primary domain, buy the .com variant as well even if it just redirects to your main page.
  • If your buying a non .com domain and the .com has been bought by some one else think hard about it first, and only purchase if your really sure.
  • Unless your a network avoid using .net, unless your a non profitable organisation avoid .org if you are a non profitable organisation make sure you do use a .org domain.
Remember your domain name should be easy enough for a person to remember and short enough for them to be willing to type it in rather then search for your site.

Revenue model
Its a hard fact but most sites must generate some sort of revenue to keep going if its only to pay the hosting costs associated with the site. The model you adopt will not only effect your 'call to action' but also how you develop the site in terms of structure and layout and so must be thought through at the earliest opportunity, but what are the most common model.
  • Advertisements ? displaying advertisements on the site normally pay per click so the site owner earns revenue every time a visitor clicks an advertisement.
  • Affiliate schemes -Revenue is generated every time a visitor buys a product using the sites referral number
  • E-commerce ? Revenue is generated from direct sales through the site
  • Donations ? Revenue is generated through donations
A mixture of the above is common particularly on forums or sites which have larger communities

Hosting and developing

When you think about developing your web site hosting is normally a second consideration, but its worth thinking about if only to make sure:
  • They allow multiple domains or sub domains
  • Allow clean URLs
  • Allow access to server logs, or provide real time statistic package (even if you use something like Google analytics it's good to have a near real time package)
  • Allow for Spike surges ? particularly a small new site following this tutorial will see growth in surges several hosting companies now offer to not take your most viewed page into account when working out bandwidth usage for a given month, if you can find some one who does this it will I think save you a good deal of money and minimise downtime

For development there is only one way to go for a typical non community orientated site, the CMS or content management system. CMS which come in many forms allow users to add and edit content without touching the code, this for the reputation manager means the site can be tweaked without any body accidentally removing code, and allows a non technical person to update the site. There are thousands of CMS but some of the big ones include Joomla, Drupal, and Plone there are many more. A lot of developers write there own CMS but for reputation management it may be easier to use an off the shelf CMS you are familiar with rather then re-inventing the wheel. Blogging platforms such as Wordpress are another type of CMS designed at providing well blogs many MFA made for Adsense sites use Wordpress because of its plugin system which includes many scrapper and leaching tools, as well as an easy user interface for sites which don't use such tools.

Once you have an understanding of what your site does, a 'global call to action', a domain name and a revenue model you are ready to think about development.

Next article is all about making your site searchable, why you might have been banned by Google and what semantic data is.
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« Last Edit: Jan 31, 2007, 02:24:49 pm by ventureskills »

Would you like to be an SEO, let me help with, The Tim Nash introduction to SEO alternatively for Social media optimisation take a look at the Venture Skills Blog

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« Reply #1 on: Jan 30, 2007, 10:32:27 am »

Part 2 making your site searchable!
So you have built the perfect site but can it be searched?
Before we go any further lets introduce some terms that you will hear a lot of. SERP or Search engine results page is the page that your term is listed on, so the first page is the first SERP page 10 would be the tenth and so on, a high SERP result means your site is listed on the first few SERPs for a given keyword combination. Its worth keeping in mind that most search engine traffic comes from the first few pages of a given search, research shows along with common sense that its worth being on the first page for a given term to get regular traffic. Page ranking or PR is another term banded around and this is perhaps far less important then SERPs. Page ranking is a measurement that Google use to rate your page this score is determined primarily on  your inbound and outbound links and the relevancy of these sites to your own. However PR is really only important to people selling their sites as it is wildly inaccurate and varies depending on which tool you use, for example the Google tool bar gives a different PR for pages then Google Sitemaps application.

So back to the problem at hand there is normally a couple of reasons for site is not searchable, it might be Google doesn't know about the site, it can't crawl the site or the site has been banned. Lets look at each of these problems and solutions.

Google doesn't know about the site
Many people will be shocked to discover Google is not omnipotent and does not know of all the sites on the internet but don't worry its really simple to add your site to Google simply visit
http://www.google.com/webmaster and register your site Live and Yahoo have similar services, once submitted to these three the rest of the world will follow. Once you have told the search engines about your site they send a ?bot? which is a program that searches your site this is call crawling and the most famous of these bots is Googlebot. Don't worry if the bots don't come over night it can take up to 3 weeks for the bots to turn up after a request.

Google can't crawl the site
Try to think of bots as being totally blind and deaf, they can't see the site as a visitor does, nor can they hear the cheesy midi file, rather they interpret the information from the html that's presented to them. This means they can only read what is shown in the html document, to get a feeling of how they work simply open your site up showing source only. The site looks very different with lots of code and a few lines of texts. If Google can't find any content on the site it can't crawl it.
Look again at your source code, can you see any content for it to search?
Things to look out for include;
  • Flash only sites, with all data held inside the flash file
  • Content in images, pictures with words can not be interpreted by the bots
  • No links from page to page.
Bots use links to navigate your site, if a page has no link to it we can call it an orphan and it won't be searched, make sense if you think about it. So its therefore important to link to every page we want to be searchable.

A good idea is to have a page with links to all pages on the site this is often called a sitemap but it must not be confused with an xml sitemap which does exactly the same thing! 
HTML sitemaps are useful on smaller sites for human visitors as well as search engines to find content but on larger sites become far to large to be of use to humans. Recently a new idea for showing search engine items to crawl has been developed initially by Google but now as an independent standard this is XML sitemaps which as you can guess is the XML equivalent of the HTML sitemap we have just discussed. So what's the difference? Well the XML sitemap is designed exclusively for search engines and so doesn't have to have a user interface a bot doesn't care how pretty it is as long as its semantically correct! We can specify a priority to pages this gives the bot an indication of how regularly this page gets updated, remember this is just a guide and no search engine is going to search your site every ten minutes because you think it requires there constant attention! For more information on XML sitemaps visit www.sitemaps.org Once you have created a sitemap either by hand or through a program or external web site submit it to the search engines, all 3 of the major engines now accept sitemaps but be aware they all go about submission in their own way, your best bet is to upload your sitemap, to your root directory of your server calling the map sitemap.xml.

Sitemaps have a second use identifying duplicate content and which content to search. Duplicate content is a big issue at the moment though it is actually two issues, the first Duplicate content on your own site the second duplicate content on several sites, Sitemaps can help with the first. Content management systems are really a requirement for sites these days and many CMS use what is known as clean URLs which is great and we will discuss these in a bit, but this can leave a problem lets take an example www.example.com/?q=page1 | www.example.com/page1 now both links would return the same page but appear to a search engine to be different pages with duplicate content, to help counter this make sure you internal link structure links to only one alias in the above case the ?clean alias? www.example.com/page1 and also only use this version in your sitemap, even if the other links are crawled they will not be included in the search results.

Your Site has been banned
It is a final resort but Google and other search engines do ban domains, be aware they nearly always do this for good reason. So why have you been banned, if you just bought the site and it was going really cheap you may have just found out why! Banning's are normally for spamming, keyword stuffing, doorways and link farming. I won't go into what these are but suffice to say hiding large amount of various keywords in your page is not considered good form. Bannings at least from Google do seem to come as the last resort and Google even goes so far as to contact domain owners first, if only sites like Digg would do that.

How do you know you have been banned? Normally because Google have told you, but you will also notice you get know or limited traffic from search engines. Some Google watchers have suggested that Google has a less severe penalty then an all out ban, in the form of a keyword penalty preventing you from appearing on SERPs for your best keywords.  Either way once you know you have been banned you need to track down the violation and fix it, before applying for a reclusion request. This is not an automated process and at least in the case of Google your request is looked at by a human before being approved or disapproved this allows you to interact with Google staff to help get the problem fixed. A word of caution its your responsibility to maintain your domain, if its hacked or used inappropriately then its down to you to fix it and make your case for re inclusion. I'm sorry doesn't always work, so its best not to get banned in the first place.

A final thought here many people have noticed that newly registered sites appear to suffer a SERP penalty on their preferred keywords just as described above this is often referred to as the ?Google sandbox? and it is suspected that its designed to stop short term opportunist spammers, oddly enough Google denies its existence though all the evidence is to the contrary so if your primary keywords are not appearing don't panic your in the non existent sandbox, the good news is it takes between 4 to six months to get out off, to avoid this penalty make sure you register your site early and use a keyword based place holder well before you place any content on the site.

Programming for Search engines
The easier your site is to navigate for search engines the better, now a lot of things can be done to make content more suitable but many people forget about the programming aspect here is just a few ideas.
  • Don't store keyword sensitive data in cookies
  • Don't use PHP sessions for bots ? sessions are very useful to aid in tracking users and allowing users to be persistently logged in but are of no use to  bots who are not logged in and causes serious problems for crawl bots, why well session ids uses a string in the URL such as www.example.com/page1?sid=3765873465378 now the ID is unique to that particular session The problem isthe session ID won't be there next time at best this means the site never really gains any major SERP due to inconsistent pages, and duplicate content at worst your site just won't get crawled.
  • Use clean URLs this is not as much an issue as it use to be but Clean URLs make it easier for search engines to find your content, older bots find it hard to search URLs that look like this www.example.com/index.php?q=myarticle they only recognise the index.php and search just the default page. The good news is the major players have no issue with this but it still worth using Clean URLs, it aids in keyword placement, makes it easier for you users to directly type the URL and helps to maintain a sense of structure.

The next article is on preparing your site for links and searches.
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« Last Edit: Jan 31, 2007, 02:26:24 pm by ventureskills »

Would you like to be an SEO, let me help with, The Tim Nash introduction to SEO alternatively for Social media optimisation take a look at the Venture Skills Blog

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« Reply #2 on: Jan 30, 2007, 10:32:43 am »

Part 3 ? Preparing for Links
Look at your site as a user
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice that anyone can give to a web designer/developer site admin, think about how your site is seen by the user and how users use the site. Users do not always come through the front door to your site often they arrive off a search result in the most unexpected places. How will your user navigate around the site from this point? Is your site ready for people arriving in the most unexpected places. As a rule of thumb all content should be available in less then 4 clicks and all important content in under 2 clicks but what does this mean and can it be achieved?

When thinking about the way people arrive at your site take into account the following considerations:
  • People want to get home, in this case your sites home page some research has the percentage of people looking for the front of the site at 80% though this maybe on the high side after the page the person was looking for a person arriving at a deep page will most commonly look for the continuation of the pages topic or the home page of the site.
  • What's the site about, people coming from search results may have missed your helpful about section on the front page how can they catch up?

While these may not seem much like site promotion getting visitors is only half the problem, keeping visitors and encouraging visitors to explore is the second half of the problem.

To aid in this make sure every page has at minimum
  • A link to the home page
  • A way to an about page, or site information on every page
  • Links to alternate content remember visitors may not have seen your site or know what else is there.

Landing pages
A landing page is simply a page within the site that is meant as an entry point, all sites have at least one landing page the home page, and good sites should be designed so that any page could be a landing page, however there are reasons to have dedicated entry points these are not back doors they are  other entrance points for a specific targets which could include:
  • Advertisement traffic
  • Forum/comment traffic
  • Specific keyword grouping traffic
  • Social media traffic
All landing pages have only one job 'call to action', what ever the call to action maybe.

Taxonomies
A taxonomy is a very posh way of saying classification, sort your content into categories you can either use directory style structures or hierarchy trees, or keyword tags, but grouping content by type makes it easier to find, and makes it easier for search engines to classify.
Blogging has made tagging a mainstream way of classifying content, a tag is imply a word or series of keywords to describe the content, in its most basic form tags can just be a list of keywords at the beginning or end of the content. By listing items that are tagged with the same keyword you can build up a directory of your site, most blogging software does this for you, as will more comprehensive CMS. When creating tags you will normally be linking the tag to your directory structure via a link. We can use this link to make our tags global tags which are picked up by tagging engines like Technorati. To do this we simply add rel=tag to our hyperlinks so an example tag would look like this
Code:
<a href=?tags/keyword? rel=?tag?>keyword</a>
The rel=?tag? is a microformat which is a common standard for writing data in this case its a common way to indicate the use of tags within the site.

Applying semantic meaning to images
In the last section I explained that images do not have any semantic meaning and therefore search engines have no means of determine relevancy but that is not entirely true, images can have some semantic meaning applied through a simple trick, however this does not mean you can go sticking vast quantity of images into your pages.
Most images on the web are linked to web pages as
Code:
<img src=?example.com/image1.jpg?>
this is fine but we can expand this using title and alt tag,
Code:
<img src=?example.com/image1.jpg title=?Trees of Cambridge? alt=?Picture of autumnal leaf fall of trees in the central park of Cambridge?>
As you can see we have used the title and alt references to create a search engine readable description of the picture, we have applied semantic meaning to them and made them accessible to some one using a blind reader. Now once you have a text description your images can be subject to the same optimisation techniques as any other text.

Now we can move on to getting links and content.
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« Last Edit: Jan 30, 2007, 01:45:52 pm by ventureskills »

Would you like to be an SEO, let me help with, The Tim Nash introduction to SEO alternatively for Social media optimisation take a look at the Venture Skills Blog

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« Reply #3 on: Jan 30, 2007, 10:32:58 am »

Part 4 Link Baiting
Developing good content for search engines
Search engines results are based on keywords even if these words are hidden behind complete sentences, so if you know you want to appear for a certain keywords it makes sense you should place these keywords in your content, so we can move on then, sadly not keywords have to be placed in a way as to appear to be part of the content repeated and abused keywords receive penalties for keyword stuffing, placing continuous stream of keywords in text, the header title etc is a no no, plus your human readers will not be impressed either. Google and the other engines have put a lot of effort in generating relevancy checkers, to check your keywords are relevant to each other and the content that is the majority of the page. So a few tips for placing keywords in content.
  • Use the title tag to include keywords within relevant titles
  • Relevancy is king if your content is about a subject chances are you have already optimised it for keywords
  • Use tags (see previous article) to identify similar content
  • Avoid stringing keywords together beyond 2 words except in tag lists or clouds.

Developing good content for humans

Your probably a human if you are reading this so hopefully you already have a good idea of what is ?good content? for humans, unlike bots we can take in more then keyword pairs of information but still act in many ways like the bots. Web sites are not books and we struggle to consume large quantities of information of flickering screens so try to keep paragraphs short and to the point, remember human attention span is much shorter then a bots so while we can consume more connected information we tend to get bored and so you have less then 15 seconds to make an impact. Here are few more ideas for developing content for humans:
  • Try to keep language bland but use colloquialisms and local diction as long as it can be understood. This is your identity and will be what your comfortable with and also helps search engine optimisation as your keywords may be a variant on a common keyword for example optimisation is the British spelling and is used through out this document.
  • Use colour on your site to separate various text and to highlight important items of interest. Search engines might not see the relevancy but people do.
  • Design pages for humans above all else, search engines should be secondary importance
  • Make sure its accessible via a blind reader and try to keep your sites standards compliance this helps
  • make sure the site is seen the way you want it to be seen
The next couple of sections are about how to write and use content to promote your site and get those all important back links.

Basic guide to copywriting
Lists, guarantees, secrets, and freebies are the copywriter tools and when used well can draw a user in, for the copywriters job is the hardest in the web world getting users to stay and more important the all important call to action but lets examine what a pages function is and how copywriters can help.
Most sites have a reason for being, it can be to sale something, promote something, act as a community, support something. I think all sites fall into this category from the spam sites to large company web sites, to the open source support forums. Therefore pages on the site should reflect one or more of these acts, pages are either passive or active. Passive page merely provide information its a one way conduit but even these can have a call to action even if its just to view more pages that are similar but what is a call to action and why is it important.

Call to action is simply a term meaning the desired action of the visitor, so if your site is about sales the call to action is to buy a product, while the call to action on a forum is to join the forum, often the call to action is to click on the advertisement. Luckily each of these approaches can be tackled in a similar way by focusing the attention of the user to the action. A good site therefore, attracts visitors, who then follow the call to action.

Back to our discussion on pages we described passive pages as being a one way conduit an active page is a 2 way stream and requires user input to complete the page or to move on, this input can be passive the clicking on the link, or active inputting details. All pages on a site should be active, a passive page is doing nothing and is not funnelling visitors to the required call to action so a copywriters job is to funnel visitors to the call to action.

A web page can be divided into several sections;
  • The browser title
  • Header
  • Title
  • Sub Title
  • Body
  • Footer
Each section is important to help funnel the required action but the area to concentrate are the Title, Sub Title and Body lets look at these 3 elements.

Title ? Perhaps the most important thing of all the title is what draws people in its perhaps the most widely seen part of a page as it is often appears on other pages as the linking text. It is therefore the most important element on any page. Get your title right and the page will follow get it wrong and it won't matter how good your content is because no one will see it. So what makes a good title:
A good title should describe the content, no really it may seem such a small thing but a good title has to tell the visitor what to expect, if it fails or misleads your visitor then your visitors then your trust level is reduced.
The title should allude to something words such as secrets and guarantee imply you are giving away knowledge that only a small number of people know.
Keep it short.
Lets look at some common title techniques.
  • My top X for Y
  • X ways to guarantee Y
  • Do you do X?
  • My secret X
  • Can you do X with my Y you can
So go ahead swap X and Y for suitable terms its scary how generic this emotive titles can be, and the key is emotive all of the above are positive but you can have negative as well.
  • The worst X for Y
  • X ways to guarantee disaster
  • Are you still doing X?
  • I confess my disappointment with X for Y
Again we can see how easy it is to substitute X and Y for example lets say our page is on Drupal modules
  • 5 modules to guarantee success with Drupal
  • Do you do Module themeing with Drupal?
  • Can you view users with my new module for Drupal you can
  • The worst modules for Drupal ever!

Not convinced lets try babies nappies
  • 5 nappies guaranteed to give your baby a dry bum
  • Do you use this brand of nappy?
  • Can your nappies survive the sea? With our range they can!
  • The worst nappy for toddlers ever?

So completely different subjects but the same titles work, titles need to be short, to the point and above all emotive some one has to want to read more from the title they have to feel some emotional response.

Sub Heading ? sub headings have to do much the same job as the title, drawing in the audience to that section of the page, it however must not detract from the main heading and still maintain a consistent flow, but still like the title have an emotive response.

Body ? So the title has managed to attract visitors now you have to deal with visitors and keep them  and its the body that will do this, but keep in mind the point of the page is the call to action, don't be afraid to make it big and bold what the page is about, if you are worried that your visitor will react negatively to your call to action ask your self why? Are you trying to deceive or trick your visitor and if so think why you wish to do this and the consequences of such an action. Lets look at popular content types and how and why they work.

The List, people love lists, they are short quick individual sections that are methodical in nature. Humans react well to lists, and will often read through the entire list paticularly if its emotive (positive or negative) lists such as My top 5, My worst 5 are all the rage in the blogging world along with memes (5 things you didn't know about me etc) these tagging games have become routine and work in the same way as tag in a playground.

The freebie, perhaps the most powerful content type and call to action, offer a freebie in return for an action has been marketers technique since well the beginning of marketing, but it is very successful on-line where the call to action requires minimum effort, think of all those letters you receive in the post with a free pen, how often do you respond? The problem is the effort level is greater then your interest so you don't bother, with the internet the effort level is already reduced and so your interest may last long enough to complete the action. Never forget the freebie its an amazing tool.

The FAQ, If only I knew X, pages that provide answers to questions, and in particular the question the visitor wanted to know. These pages are particularly useful at drawing visitors into the site, but it is hard to draw visitors to complete a call to action as the visitor has already completed the action they wanted.

The Blog entry, normally short informational, and to the point. Bloggers tend to write in a more journalistic style but in many ways this is the most passive type of content, yet bloggers and bloging is an example of good active pages. Bloggers on the whole call to action is for a person to comment on their blog or to write and link to their blog and on the whole bloggers are successful more through their sites structure and design then there content.
The above are no way a complete list just a few examples of good body content, in general body content should.
  • Be short, remember humans take in a lot of data very fast but have almost no attention span.
  • Section off long content, if you have large amount of content, use short paragraphs.
  • Make your call to action obvious, subtlety rarely works.
  • If your page is long repeat your call to action
  • Every page should have a purpose and a call to action even if this action is to link to other points of interest
  • Emotive content inspires people to read on
  • Titles are what draw people
  • Quotes can be very effective but need to stand out from the page
  • Give something away
  • Content is king make yours great
  • Always proof read and spell check content
  • They say picture tells a thousand words, how much does a video tell? (remember accessibility and to describe your media as it holds no semantic meaning)

Viral content
Viral content is not some sort of illness it is a type of content that has been designed to be spread through the social media web sites. Its call to action is for the user to recommend the page to others through sites like del.icio.us and Digg along with a secondary action. These pages are in many way front doors to your site with information designed for a specific audience rather then a generic one, we discuss landing pages in detail later but viral content pages are perhaps the hardest to master as your pages are at the mercy of people, who have to act on them either through voting or bookmarking the site, get it wrong and the page will receive little in the way of visitors but even if you get it right it only takes a single event or something external to result in no one noticing your hard work. So what can we do to help a Viral content page:
  • Make the call to action really obvious, Digg this button at the top and the bottom
  • Make it easy to link to use social bookmarking buttons to allow you visitors to easy linking
  • Keep the advertisement to a minimum, social content visitors are much more techie savy and are unlikely to click on advertisement any way

  • Perhaps more then anything else the title is the most important, as many diggers don't even click on links but rather Digg based on title alone
  • Social content visitors do not really provide increase in sales, though they are more likely to hand over details for freebies.
Don't over do it, social sites are fragile and so take a tough stance on spam, you do not need to optimise every page to make it to digg or similar site.

Digg and similar sites are really only useful at providing links by letting visitors who perhaps wouldn't normally visit your content access to it. Don't expect increase sales because you made it to the popular lists. But they do provide a continual increase in visitors, and helps to reinforce your brand. People are more likely to buy from people who are known to them, so Digg and similar sites are very good at promoting your brand.

This was a very basic guide to copywriting which is a huge subject, so now its time to get those links
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 30, 2007, 10:33:13 am »

Part 5 Getting those links
All the hard work is over your site is ready, your content is done time to start getting those all important links. Well I'm afraid I lied the hard work has only just begun getting links is the toughest part of reputation management. So where do links come from?
  • Directories
  • Other sites in the field
  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Out of field sites
  • Pay per click campaigns
So how do we get links well perhaps the obvious way is to ask for them.

Asking for links

Quote
Hi my name is Tim,
I love your site, I particularly enjoyed your article on how local search is changing the water industry, I have written a similar piece regarding electricians in Ely and so added your page as a link, I hope you don't mind the article can be found www.example.com/11/12/07/local-search-saves-ely-electricians I have also added you to my del.icio.us account and stumbled your site.

I have one question though, in your article you discuss blah blah blah and I was wondering how you would go about encouraging blah blah blah.

Anyway good luck with the site,

Tim
example.com

Have you read...
example.com/article1
example.com/article1
RSS feed example.com/feed
The above is example of a hook email, it is designed to attract links, but at no point does it ask for a link, this strategy occasionally backfires but the above email is a great example of how to make contact with a site owner or blogger. It is personal, it shows you actually visited the site, it shows that your sites have relevancy and it strokes an ego. Most bloggers are egotistical even if they won't admit it so flatter them it costs you nothing and they hopefully will return positively. Above all make your approach unique to you don't copy example emails it must be personal.

Email is not of course the only way to get links of course a common technique is comment answers this strategy goes something like this

Great article I particularly enjoyed x but I don't agree with y I have written a piece  on my blog that covers the question from a different angle.

At this point 2 separate techniques can be employed, the first is to link to the article in your comment the second to not link to the article  directly. Most blogging platforms allow comments to specify a URL which appears as a link with the persons name, a common technique is to have this point to the desired link instead. Why?
To understand how this is more helpful depends on what you want out of the link, if your after traffic its in your best interest to place the link visibly in the comment, therefore all visitors can see the link and follow it which correlates to a direct increase in traffic. However these links will normally have a no follow tag, this tells spiders that the site wishes to have no relevancy with that link. It is a common misunderstanding that no follow results in the page not being spidered which is wrong, it simply a way for admin to say I don't know if this page is relevant to me!
So placing links in comments and comment URLs does not really effect search engine rankings for small sites who are trying to get good rankings this will bring only limited traffic. However by not linking directly you are goading the blogger to find and link to your comment from within the post which hopefully will not have a no follow tag. This technique works best when combined with an email which gives the direct link, perhaps with an explanation that you did not want to spam his comments.

A lot of work for a link so is it worth it? This depends obviously on the site, is it relevant and does it have visitors?

The above 2 are just simple techniques to get some links there are many others here is just a few:
Make the news, breaking stories get linked to quickly the more authoritative the site the greater chance of links
Good content will get natural links
Make your content visible use tags and make sure they are picked up by Technorati
The final good method is submitting to directories.

Directories are sites that list other web sites, now there is a thin line between directories and link farms, but most directories are liked by search engines. When submitting to directories its often tempting to submit to every directory going but this doesn't necessarily help your site grow. Rather pick between 5 to 10 good directories and to determine which ones we will use PR which you may remember we discarded in chapter 1. However directories are all rated in PR a good rule of thumb is don't submit to directories that have a PR less then 4, unless they are in your field or other something outstanding.

Most directories offer two entry types paid for and free, it may be tempting to just go with the free entry but be warned it can take months even years for your entry to be seen. Even small directories can see an excess of 10000 submissions a month and are often run by one or two individuals. Jumping the queue could save you six months of waiting for approval. However a word of warning never pay more then $10 for a directory unless its offering something outstanding its not worth it for a single entry.

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Develop a linking strategy
You can spend a lot of time and money creating links with little or no return on your investment unless you have a strategy in place. But how is it best to go about developing such a strategy?

Lets start with research a good technique is to develop a list of sites to link to but how do we do this:
1.Who are your competitors and who links to them?
2.Who are the experts in your fields and who links to them
3.Who blog's about your field?
4.Who is providing news about your field?
If you answered no one to all of the above, your a) lieing or b) not doing enough research. But perhaps we should discuss the tools to discover who your competitors are and who links to them.

I'm going to let you into the biggest secret on the web...
No really I am its huge so huge I don't know why I'm telling you!
Google.

I know your shocked and surprised but its true those search engines we are trying to get onto so much are also holding all the information about our competitors sites relationships with other sites. Now mining that information is several articles in itself but lets start with a simple technique. Earlier we worked on keyword analysis we discussed which keywords we wanted to gain good SERPs, now go to the big three search engines and type in that keyword pair in. Any idea who your biggest competitors are yet?
Now repeat for all your preferred keyword pairs note the top 20 in each case and cross references these lists for common domains, if you have 8 keyword pairs that are in relevant topics you should expect 5 other sites to routinely pop up within the first 2 pages.

Its these 5 sites that make a good start and now its time to start looking at who links to these site. We could again use search engines to use site: and link: searches but its time consuming and chances are unless you are very disciplined you will miss something so its now time to stop doing things by hand and use some tools.

At this point I should point out that purists will say that using such tools is no guarantee of missing anything and you are potentially giving away information to the makers of the tools. This view is not very widespread and its very unlikely any of the makers of such software are using your data in this way.

The tool we will be using is SEO for Firefox a simple Firefox plugin if your not using Firefox there are plenty of similar tools for IE and Opera and most other browsers.

So what will SEO for Firefox do well it returns information about a given page or site, this information includes

 PR, Age, Del.icio.us,Yahoo links, .edu links, page links, .gov links, Technorati, Alexa, cached, DMOZ, Bloglines, wikipedia and whois
a click takes you to the relevant search result so if you want to know how many .gov links a site has its simple it will also return search results for the various searches. It is not as flexible as many other packages in terms of how it returns the data, several packages provide spreadsheet (.xls/CSV) results while some provide xml. In the case of SEO Firefox it just links to the search results still its useful.

So with this tool we can see our competitors are linked with and to. Now its a case of working out if any would make suitable linkers.

The search engines won't admit it but they actually classify links and so SERPs are determined not so much by the number of links but quality. So who do search engines trust?
Governments, education, and organisations.
Put simply .gov.xx .ac.xx .edu.xx .sch.xx .org these domain names have a level of trust based on how difficult it is to get such domains links from these organisations have high levels of trust. They are therefore our first targets in any strategy, using the keyword combinations along with the site: .edu|.gov|.ac.uk|.edu.eu|.gov.uk|sch.uk|org should return results only from those domains. While .gov as you would expect are hard to get .edu and ac.uk are pretty easy, most universities allow student and staff web space and a growing number are choosing to run blogs on these spaces. Making targeting them as easy as any other blogger. The golden rule here is relevancy, these are valuable links and so you should always be aiming to get full links without no follow. Comment links will not net any more of a result then any other blog. Other useful links may come from forums again you will find these more on .edu sites though a couple of .gov sites have forums open to the public. Other types of sites could include local business links and even directories, of course if you work for or with government and educational industries this is a lot easier.

Our next type of site that interests us are authoritative news sites and influential bloggers. Both of these have to advantages high volume of visitors, this is where comment links can be very influential, high volume of visitors is a good place to drive traffic, but and its a large but a lot of other people will be doing exactly the same thing! The key is to be in the first couple of comments which leads us to our second tool a feed reader. Nearly all blogs will have a feed, this could be an RSS/RSS2.0 or ATOM feed, all three are a type of XML which can be read by readers and provides either complete pages or synopsis of posts. By using a feed reader and subscribing to feeds you can follow new posts on sites without having to constantly visit. Its not just blogs that use feeds many sites offer these services including forums and even company sites. There are hundreds of feed readers and the choice is up to you I use Google Reader but it does have a single drawback that makes it less useful to the linker it doesn't update in real time or anywhere close.

To understand how feed readers work its worth looking at how blogging platforms work. A blog is simply a dynamic web page that posts articles with two other features, it creates xml feeds and it can ping services. Whenever an article is posted the blog pings a ping service such as ping goat and lets it know a post has been made, readers regularly check with these ping services to be notified of updates. When a new update shows the reader calls the feed and downloads the modified feed for you to see. Now depending on how often the reader calls its ping service will depend on how long it will take for a feed to appear.

A solution like Google Reader takes a long time to respond and so it could take up to 5 hours to receive notification of a blog post. Now five hours is the difference between being the first to comment and being the fifteenth to comment and that of course presumes your up 24 hours a day!

Given most of us look at our feeds only a couple of times a day this delay is not a huge issue and there are plenty of feed readers that do allow instant or near instant feeds.

By using a feed reader not only will you keep up to date with your favourite blogs but also be able to be one of the first to reply with useful and relevant links. With authoritative sites the importance of no follows is perhaps diminished by high visitor returns so leaving the link in the comment makes more sense.

So far our strategy has been

  • Look for relative links within competitors own links
  • Look for education, government and organisation links
  • Use authoritative and trusted blogs for comment links
  • Use High PR directories and if necessary pay for quick submissions
Its time to think about link exchanges so far we have only discussed getting links to your site and not about your out going link.
Link policies
Every site should have a publicly accessible link policy outlining what sites it will link to. This is not a policy regarding incoming links you will take all that your given but rather what sort of link love you will give in return. A links policy should outline the sort of sites you will link to and why as well as any other information here is a quick example.

Example Links policy
Quote
Here at XX we know our community is important and that its visited by xxxx every day so we have to be a bit picky about who we link to, if you are on this page you have  a)got here by accident b)have emailed a link request and been directed here c) Otherwise told to come here and are interested in reciprocal linking with us.
What is reciprocal linking? This is simply a two way link we link to you, you link to us either by banner, or just a text link. We are always interested in receiving links and are happy to provide reciprocal links to non commercial sites which are in our field of interest and which do not infringe copyright rules, or has content that is dubious immoral or illegal we do not always agree to reciprocal links and all links are subject to regular review. We reserve the right to remove the link without warning. For more information please feel free to contact us.

Try to keep in mind when creating these policy that you do not want to put off genuinely interested parties but make sure you notify potential sites that you will not link to illegal|immoral|dubious sites and sites with copyright infringements also make sure the right to remove the link without warning is there as well. When ever you receive a link request for reciprocal or three way linking check the sites in question and keep checking the sites a legitimate site today might not be tomorrow.

But why create such a policy and why make it public, openness and transparency is the primary purpose it also provides a sort of defence barrier from email requests like the ones we were writing a few minutes ago, by pointing them at a links policy it helps filter the genuine from the bot. It also helps work out in your mind what sort of sites you want to link to. Remember linking to a site is like moving your house there are good neighbour hoods and bad ones making sure your in the right one, use the research techniques we discussed above to see who they link to and vice versa, a good rule of thumb is to compare there list to our keyword analysis lists and see if there is any cross linking.

Now the final rule is feel free to break these rules and link to who you want but if unsure use a no follow, even if you remove it after 6 months. An interesting take on no follows that I have seen is to allow top posters to post comments in blogs that don't have the no follow because they are trusted users.

Reciprocal vs three legged links

Ok we have always discussed reciprocal links this two way link exchange is pretty common now its time to consider three legged or three way exchanges these are less common but often more influential and work like this.

Three sites either owned by two or three groups all want to link to each other rather then reciprocal linking they adopt a newer strategy site ?A links to Site B which in turn links to Site C who yes you guessed it linked to Site A? Why is this better then A,B,C all interlinking? Well it appears search engines place less relevancy on reciprocal links as one way links the difference is small but noticeable. This strategy also helps newer sites if we say Site A and B are owned by the same people A is an old site B is a new site when linking to Site C, site A links to site C while site C links to B which either links to B or more likely doesn't link at all. In this scenario neither site A or C are losing anything and site B gains a valuable link.

We can now see that linking strategies changed depending on the age of the site so lets now look at our strategy from different ages.

New site
  • Educational, government, organisational links without no follow
  • Influential and authoritative bloggers with or without no follows
  • High PR directories (its worth paying for new sites)
  • Comment/forum links (get the visitors in)
  • 3 way link exchanges (really only possible if you have a second existing site)
  • reciprocal links within topic
Existing site
  • Educational, government, organisational links without no follow
  • Influential and authoritative bloggers with or without no follows
  • High PR directories (Only if you haven't already)
  • reciprocal or 3 way links but only with non commercial sites
  • Comment/forum links

So we have researched our competitors those in the industry who influence it, and made a list of the best candidates if we have an existing site we can offer three way link exchanges, and try our ego stroking techniques on educational and government sites. Of course don't reserve your praise for these sites. Remember your site is not the only one to grow. Keep your eyes out for small but fast growing sites getting in early will make life so much easier.

Paying for links

Up until now we have discussed free methods to gain links now we come to the tricky issue of buying links. This is a tricky subject if its not something you are interested in or care about skip now but before you do its not as expensive as you may think.

Buying links is something of a bad word in many promotional circles its seen as cheating but that's not really the case at all.
Now the type of link is normally text, image or media based (flash) but all operate the same way.

Pay per click ? every time some one clicks the link to your site you pay up
Pay per impression ? every time some one sees your link to your site you pay up
Affiliate sale ? every time some one completes a transaction having come from an affiliate site you pay up.

Ultimately you pay up, there is plenty of research out there but the most cost effective variant has to be the affiliate sale, this may cost when a product is bought but effectively provides a free link, of course it does require you to have something to sell. Pay per click is probably the most common type of adverts with both Google and Yahoo selling highly competitive PPC services, these services are based on bidding for a click and the cost to you is determined by the amount of other bidders on the specified keywords. More sought after the keyword more it costs pretty simple really. If only a couple of people are bidding on a keyword the cost is far lower then if 1000s are bidding, the number of people is only one factor the other being the popularity of the keywords on sites. Adverts are matched using keyword matching, if there are 1000s of sites for a given keyword the cost increase as the potential customers increases. PPC have one fundamental flaw click fraud, simply find your competitors ads and click them, continue doing so till they run out of money.

Pay per impression is not as common today as it was a few years ago, it works in the same way but the site owners were paid whenever the advert was seen. This as you can guess was never very cost effective.

Of course the above only describe formal methods of paid links, private arrangements between sites are common, and some sites charge for advertisement on their site. With these sites its important to check the small print often you are paying based on impression rather then click particularly with banners.

Summing Up

So we made the site searchable, we made the content searchable, we wrote appealing content that is easy to market and we looked at how to beg and steal and even buy links now its time to put it together into a coherent site.

We have Learnt above all else
  • Web sites are designed for humans first and foremost
  • Every page has a call to action, and every site has a purpose
This is just the beginning and the very basics hopefully its given you ideas and something to think about before or during your next development.

If you have enjoyed this article, you might be interested in my Blog on my site or the Venture Skills blog and finally if you want to see more articles like this please let me know, but also think about donating to webdigity using the big donate now button.
Don't forget to bookmar us for later read
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« Last Edit: Jan 31, 2007, 02:25:28 pm by ventureskills »

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« Reply #5 on: Jan 30, 2007, 10:45:22 am »

Nice start, but I am waiting more from a marketer like you Wink

As there is only part 1 available now, I will try to make a comment on that information.

Those tips sound very "newbie" but in fact they are really significant and not too many people use them for some reason. Personally I created the first plan for a web site I published only before 1 year. Before that I was just developing sites... Now I can say for sure that there is a big difference.

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« Reply #6 on: Jan 30, 2007, 11:04:21 am »

part 2 is now up, Planning a site is really important, I find it amazing that people don't actually know what they want their site to do!
Most sites simply have a few pages with adverts on them, but the adverts were an after thought because they thought it was a quick way to pay for hosting. Which is fine but these are normally the same people who complain there adverts make no money, and there site has no visitors. If your revenue model is advertisement then your call to action is to get people clicking!

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« Reply #7 on: Jan 30, 2007, 11:29:24 am »

This is mostly a problem of the human nature Smiley Most people are getting blind from their desire to make money. Money is fine, but in our case money is created using traffic, so whatever regarding ads (placement,networks,colors,etc) is nonsense when the traffic is minimal.

Now regarding the second part, I will disagree with the submission thing. It is total useless to submit to search engines, and personally I haven't done this for the last years. The real target is to get ranked which is done by getting inbound links. When you have a few inbound links search engines will start crawl your site and they will also include your site to SERPs. In the beginning is good to get some high pr links, but even no pagerank links from directories can help.

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« Reply #8 on: Jan 30, 2007, 11:54:34 am »

Telling the search engines about your site has its advantages, it's a good backup policy, you can claim ownership at the same time, which allows you greater access to stat's from day 1. You know its done and it takes less then a minute. It also speeds the overall process up a bit, it won't help your rankings in any way but as part of an overall strategy its good practice to do things in a logical order. Part 3 & 4 are now up!

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« Reply #9 on: Jan 30, 2007, 12:41:32 pm »

Very interesting articles. Thanks for sharing them with us Smiley

I will bookmark them for later read.

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« Reply #10 on: Jan 30, 2007, 02:16:33 pm »

Thats quite a read, I'll have to come back for this later. I agree about the submitting to the search engine, I have not done that in a long time and think its totally useless. When you do some linkbuilding the bots will find you soon enough, especially when the links are on high ranked sites. I usually see the Google bot visiting my new websites within a few hours of posting a link here on webdigity Grin I don't really care about any other bots, but if Google is able to find my site, so should the others...
« Last Edit: Jan 30, 2007, 02:18:15 pm by Mind_nl »


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« Reply #11 on: Jan 30, 2007, 11:04:15 pm »

To support this article I am running a series of podcasts that follow the order in this article and have uploaded part 1 to my site as its 14mb, the link is at the top and http://www.timnash.me.uk/reputation-management-podcast

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