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Science Confirms Pics Are Worth 1,000 Words

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Science Confirms Pics Are Worth 1,000 Words was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

dinosaur milk

This image on the front page of National Geographic today piqued my interest.

The image above is in a rotating banner along the front page of National Geographic today.

To think that little dino babies could have nursed on mama dino’s little teats! I’m a sucker for ancient reptiles, and am myself mom to a creature of prehistoric persuasion. So I wanted to know, were dinosaurs and mammals not so different after all?

Spoiler alert: NatGeo’s article goes on to pretty convincingly debunk this newly proposed lizard lactation theory. Now instead of a lesson on dinosaurs, NatGeo taught me something about persuasion and images. After seeing that image and the overlaid text suggesting a radical discovery, I was primed to believe — practically persuaded already!

As you may have guessed, there’s science behind this phenomenon.

The reptile connection in Deaf Turtles, Persuasive Pictures is a total coincidence, I swear! What you should pay attention to is neuroscience marketer Roger Dooley’s observations about how photos give statements credibility:

  • In one study, images didn’t even have to be relevant to the statements being made in order to have this effect.
  • Add to this, text along with an image magnifies this effect even more.
  • Use images carefully and thoughtfully. A powerful image can draw attention — and that can be good or bad.

Mind-hack marketers can take advantage of this psychological disposition. Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and even more so when words accompany pictures. Kinda explains a lot about Internet memes, doesn’t it?

grumpy cat says no


Bruce Clay Blog

Knowledge, Profit & Love: Sean Dolan of Pushfire on SEO

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Recently I had a chance to interview Sean Dolan, Chief Operating Officer at Pushfire, about how things are going at Pushfire as well as his history with us here at SEO Book.

We also included how we played matchmaker for him and Rae (sorta…in a really roundabout way) 🙂

In all seriousness though, this is a fantastic read. As Google continues to hammer away at SEO profit margins for smaller webmasters, mom and pop shops, smaller local businesses and so on (through unforgiving and somewhat chaotic, frequent, wide-ranging updates) it’s good for newer industry folks, or seasoned webmasters considering a jump to agency services, to see the documented evolution of someone like Sean.

1. Tell us about how you got started in the industry and what led you to SeoBook?
In 2008, my uncle sent me a link to the latest of his out-of-the-box ideas, The Extreme Cubicle Makeover: Red Mahogany Luxury Paneled Cubicle with Dark Cherry Hardwood Floors. I was excited to hear his tales of traffic numbers and noise generated by the common cubicle, taken to an extreme every cubicle dweller dreamed of. It was different; it started conversations around the virtual water cooler. It was remarkable.

At the time, I was over a decade into running my DJ business, built around word-of-mouth advertising the first few years, and in the last few years business flooded in from successful Adwords campaigns. In my first month of Adwords, I spent $ 800 and booked over $ 8,000 in contracted gigs. My uncle’s success shifted my paradigm, and got me excited about the potential of SEO and Viral Marketing as an additional source of business. I was filling up my DJ schedule fast with Adwords, but I wanted more!

I went to the bookstore and grabbed the first book I saw: “SEO for Dummies” by Bruce Clay. The book was printed in 2004, and I was reading it in 2008. As I read more about search engine algorithm changes, I began to wonder how useful the information would be, but I soaked up every word regardless. After I finished the book, I jumped online to find more books to read, maybe something more current. I searched “seo books” on Google, and there ranking #1 was I began to scan the SERPs, reading descriptions of each result. Then I realized that if I was going to get information about how to rank in Google, I’d better choose the person that ranked #1 for what I instinctively searched. I immediately signed up as a paid member.

2. What were your first impressions of the paid SeoBook forums, training area, and tools?

I wanted the training material bad. My decision to purchase membership was based on the training material alone. Tools were nice, and community was great, but I didn’t see the use for them until after I read all of the training, which I did. I read everything. I couldn’t believe how much actionable information I had. I literally took notes as I read, organizing them into what I would implement immediately, and what I would implement later.

It wasn’t until I finished the training that I began to sneak around the member forums, saying nothing, but reading everything. Threads went back for years with hundreds of ideas I could still implement today. I realized that while the training got me up to speed, the forums dug very deep into theories and opinions with each person offering a unique perspective due to their industry and level of competition, openly providing real data from their experiments. And every day, there was something new, something I could implement. My plan to purchase a single month of, read all of the training material, and cancel my membership, had failed. I was hooked.

3. Can you talk about how SeoBook’s community helped with the success of your site?

Using the member tools, implementing what I learned from the training materials, and the forums, I was soon ranking #2 for “Houston DJ” along with many other valuable terms. The organic leads came flooding in, and I paused my Adwords campaign. A few weeks later I was booked solid every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the next 4 months, and had contracts for dates up to a year in advance. I was passing leads to fellow DJs like candy. I was making about as much money as a one-man-show could make.

4. Privately, you mentioned to me that SeoBook changed your life. Can you expand on that a bit with respect to the initial success, followed by the launch of your own agency, and, of course, how your wife fits into the timeline?

I quickly realized that in hitting my capacity as far as how many DJ gigs I could handle by myself, the next step would be to hire DJs and manage them. This didn’t excite me. One of my DJs was arrested for a bench warrant on his way to a gig. I had to run out the door and perform, showing up late, and I hated that. I saw so much more potential online, and I wanted to help other local businesses do what I did with my company.

Late in 2008, my father was laid off from his job due to downsizing. Rather than run right back out to a job in the corporate sales industry he was familiar with, he was looking for something new—and I was just discovering something new. So we decided to join forces and create an agency called Ascendgence, LLC.

We both knew that we needed more than only my DJ Business as a case study. We needed something big. We needed our own “Extreme Cubicle”; something to get our name out there; proof that we could harness the power of the Internet to produce an intended outcome.

My father and I initially discussed offering pro bono services to a local business that was failing to help turn them around. Save them. Then, something struck me. On February 7, 2009, I started a thread in the members section, and posted this:

“Driving down the street last week I saw a very nicely dressed business woman on the corner holding a sign that said “I need a job”. Having freshly logged off of SeoBook, seeing the world in terms of opportunity, I thought to myself, “Hell, change that poster to and you’re hired!” I told the members of the Seobook forums.

“Well, that grew into a very, very different sort of idea that I will be sharing with the community a few days before we launch this.”

The feedback I received from the members’ forum, equally encouraging and critical, helped shape my project into the success it became. launched on February 17, 2009. Exhausted from days of implementing the strategies I learned from the Seobook forums in preparation for the launch, we had Tim, a homeless man dying of alcoholism on the street, at the end of his rope, and gave him a sign to hold that said “ All Major Credit Cards accepted”. As was carefully planned, all hell broke loose.

Tim, my Father, and I were interviewed by dozens of radio stations, local and nationally syndicated, interviewed on Fox & Friends morning show, featured on CNN, joked about by Jeff Foxworthy on the Rachael Ray Show, featured in 100s of national and international outlets—including The Sydney Morning Herald and Der Spiegel. In 4 very busy months, we raised $ 100,000 in personal donations and in-kind contributions, put Tim through rehab, and got him off the streets and reconnected with family he hadn’t seen in 35 years. Today, Tim is over 3 years sober and still off the streets.

Anyone interested in reading the entire thread from day one, can find it in here in the members forum.
As was intended, this helped our newly formed business. Fortune 500 companies didn’t come banging down our door, but we had a story to tell when we pitched prospects. For Ascendgence, PTB proved that we were loyal, and committed. Tim was our first client, and we followed through on what we promised him, and worked as hard as we could for him to help him achieve his goals. His goals happened to be sobriety and a normal life. The sobriety came, but it took a while for things to get ‘normal’. At one point, Larry King asked for an interview, and Tim decided it wasn’t a good idea because he’d already started rehab. Turning down Larry King for an interview was anything but normal.

The clients came. Some great partnerships were made. For that next year, I spent every bit of spare time reading the Seobook forums, and rereading the training materials. During this time, there was so much information; I rarely read anything outside of the forums… because the information I found in the forums worked.
After nearly 3 years as partners in Ascendgence, my father and I came to the decision that we were better as father and son than we were as business partners. As we grew, the business put a strain our personal relationship. We came to the decision that I would buy my father out of the company. Soon after, he took a VP position at Bank of America.

So, let’s back up to how my now wife, Rae Hoffman AKA Sugarrae, fits into this. I heard about Pubcon from the SeoBook forums, and I was debating on whether to go to Pubcon Dallas 2010 or not. Heather Reisig, known as grnidone in the forums, told me it was a good show, even though it was smaller, and specifically recommended that I spend time in the smoking section, in order to network. I did as I was told. At the first networking event, Rae came out and we chatted about business a bit. She mentioned she was going to the Fox and the Hound after (not to me, just in general). Uninvited, I went to the bar, pounded 3 Jack and Cokes to work up the courage to approach her and offered to buy her a beer. As it turns out, Rae rarely turns down beer. She challenged me to go drink-for-drink the next day. The rest was a blur.

Rae and I had an instant connection. By the end of PubCon we were making plans to visit each other (she was in Canada at the time; I was in Texas). It really was love at first sight. She was all I thought about—my world—and I love her more today than ever. We got married seven months to the day that we met in November of 2010 and we moved our (now) family to Texas in December of 2010.

After running Ascendgence by myself for a few months, Rae started having extra demand on the consulting side of Sugarrae. We saw that our two businesses: Ascendgence and the consulting aspect of Sugarrae, had a lot of overlap in services. Not wanting the business to cause tension in our relationship, we were slow to act. We tested it out for a few months and found that we worked very well together, not only personally, but professionally.

On May 10th, 2012, Rae and I announced PushFire.

5. There’s lots of negativity out and about this industry, but I see lots of opportunity. Granted, costs have risen and Google has trimmed the organic results in some pretty profitable areas, but SEO is still a major, major hub for getting in front of online prospects that are explicitly interested in your service or product?

I came into the game going up against a smarter Google than those who’d been in the game for decades. I had to start from the get-go with learning more about how to build web businesses with defensible SEO, than exploiting algorithmic loopholes. Long-term strategies, defensible links, caution over greed, the recipe for an agency guy.

It still amazes me how many large companies don’t know the basics. I’ve experienced billion dollar companies with no analytics, medium sized companies with broken contact forms, and manufacturing companies with nofollowed homepages. Entire websites disallowed by a developer who forgot to change it before launch, and these companies, for years, never knew any better. There’s a huge market for SEO Audits, including some of the largest companies, with not only enormous budgets, but huge gains to be had by fixing these problems. As an agency, you have flexibility. If the future of Google is favoring big brands, then that’s where you pitch your services.

At PushFire, on a regular basis, we turn down companies we don’t think are a good fit for us. We only work with those we think we can do great things for. This is why I chose the agency life. I get satisfaction out of watching my clients’ businesses grow. I love meeting with them and showing them reports of huge gains. Link Building is another service we provide. We promote the highest quality content, no short-cuts. I love motivating my staff with trips to Vegas or iPads for top performers. I enjoy doing team building events like bowling and laser tag to show them we appreciate their hard work. I enjoy running an agency.

Now, for those of you who hesitate going the agency route—there’s a lot of room for small, capable agencies. You don’t need to be a known “rockstar” in this industry to have a successful agency. Bottom line is that there are tons of industries where the competition is not ultra competitive, the clients and their competitors are simply uneducated. The client doesn’t care if you can rank for online gambling or which conference you’ve spoken at. They care if you can rank THEM for THEIR topic, in THEIR market, against THEIR competitors. Remember, there are far more companies that can’t afford a “rockstar” than those who can.

6. There’s lots of interest, from folks I talk to, about running their own agency (to some degree). One big hurdle for webmasters who are not used to time structure/resource structure is company infrastructure. How does your company handle stuff like a CRM, project management system, email, document management, etc?

We use Highrise for CRM, Basecamp for project management, Outlook for email, and Dropbox for document management. Our developer churns out amazing tools for our team to use, as well as for management to keep track of performance and client reporting. Raven Tools has been a major help in organizing our link development. In fact our most used tools are built using the Raven Tools API.

Find a good partner. Rae and I complement each other. I enjoy client calls, she does not. She enjoys blogging and developing strategy, while I enjoy implementation of these strategies. Her forte is SEO, mine is PPC Management.

Hire an accountant… it will save you money in the long run. Always have your contracts looked over by an actual lawyer. Once you get bigger, you’ll need someone to manage HR, but you can easily outsource this.

We exhibited for the first time at Affiliate Summit East. By the conference, we were already booked out months in advance. Preparing for the conference slowed the speed at which we could hire, so at that moment, with 4,600 conference attendees, we couldn’t take on any new SEO clients. We spent those two days referring tons of business to other agencies, which specialized in what the prospect was looking for. There’s a ton of business out there. Many of our clients came to us by referral from other agencies. So, if you are starting out, I would recommend you get to know the community, meet people who do what you do, show them what you’re capable of, and let them know you’re taking clients (this includes us!)

I have no doubt that we will make more money by giving those clients away than we would have by taking them. Karma is king in this industry.

7. How did you come up with PushFire? Internally? Hire a branding firm?

After the final decision was made to join forces, Rae and I sat on our back porch, beers in hands, racking our brains for names. I wanted something to do with fire because that’s how I see ideas spreading on the internet, like a grass fire. GrassFire’s .com, Twitter, and Facebook were all taken. Then we thought about BrandFire–“brand” like in what they use to mark cattle, giving it a bit of Texas flavor, and “brand” as in your company brand. Our logo would look like a cattle brand burned into the header. Checking domain registrants, twitter handles, and facebook, it wasn’t doable.

We wanted something simple to remember, say, and easy to spell. Then, going through the dictionary and combining everything with “fire” we both loved PushFire—meaning that we not only start the fire, but we have to push it or fuel it as well. We slept on it for 24 hours and then negotiated the purchase from its owner the next day. Maybe that’s not the most romantic business story, but that’s how we got it done in less than 3 days and off of our Basecamp to-do list.

PushFire’s growth has exceeded our expectations. We are on track to be eligible for the Inc 500 revenue requirements by 2013, but will need to wait until 2017 to meet the time requirements. Everyone has a unique story about how they got into the internet marketing industry, but this is mine and I couldn’t have done it without the help of the SeoBook community, Aaron Wall, and the great forum moderators.

Thanks for the time Sean!

Sean Dolan is the Chief Operating Officer at PushFire. When he’s not managing operations, he’s spending time with his wife and children or donating his time to causes such as The Periwinkle Foundation. You can connect with Sean on Twitter and Google+.


The Ultimate Guide to Advanced Guest Blogging

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Posted by Pratik Dholakiya

With “content marketing” being the indisputable SEO buzzword of 2012, we can expect 2013 to see an onslaught of marketers trying to build links with guest posts. The growth in this market will cause some sites to lower their guest posting standards, others to raise them, and still more to stop accepting them altogether. Google will target low quality guest posts with increasing zeal, and it will get harder to see results if the effort and strategy aren't there. We're going to help you combat this by sharing how we got posts up on ProBlogger and Search Engine Journal, and by introducing you to our strategy for success with our clients.

1. Finding Guest Post Opportunities

Finding Guest Post Opportunities

Let's kick this off by talking about where to seek out guest post opportunities. This is, by far, the most important part of your strategy, since it determines the value and longevity of your link.

20 Things You Should Do and Pay Attention to

  1. Look for platforms where it will make sense to readers for you to post. The niche doesn't have to be identical, but there should be an overlap in audience, and you should be able to offer something valuable to them that also makes sense from a branding perspective.
  2. Check the SEOmoz Domain Authority and PageRank to make sure the blog has the right ranking factors in place. Dig a bit deeper than this, though. For starters, check up on a few of their previous guest posts to see how strong the Page Authority is. Look for other signs that the site is visited frequently, such as frequent comments and sharing activity. Make sure this is true for most pages, not just the homepage.
  3. On that note, check for activity on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. If the site has a decent amount of community activity happening on at least one of those networks, you're in pretty good shape.
  4. Look for a large subscriber count.
  5. Read through a few of the comments to get an idea of what the site's community looks like, and to make sure spam isn't making its way into the comments frequently. Keep in mind that Google pays attention to user generated content, even if it doesn't count it the same way as main body content.
  6. Pay attention to who has contributed to the blog in the past. Do their guest posts or their sites seem “spammy?”
  7. Who is in charge of the blog? What does their background look like? Do they appear reputable?
  8. The guidelines for guest posts should have fairly strict standards. It should be clear that content is only accepted if it will please the blog's audience. If it looks “easy” to get a post up on their blog, don't bother.
  9. How frequently is the blog updated?
  10. Does the site publish any of its own material, or just guest posts? Most legitimate sites will publish their own material, though there are exceptions.
  11. Is it possible for you to become a regular contributor? A site that is looking for consistently good content will often want regular contributors. A site that doesn't care about quality standards is less likely to want them.
  12. Will your target audience visit this blog? Will influencers who are followed by your target audience visit this blog? You should be able to answer yes to at least one of these, unless the audience size is very large.
  13. Consider starting by asking this question: “Where is the go-to place for my target audience? Is it possible for me to get a post there?” instead of asking the more typical question posed earlier: “Would my target audience visit this blog?” This is harder to accomplish, but the results are much more dramatic if you do.
  14. Check out the site's link profile. Does it look natural?
  15. Seek out guest posts from blogs that do not publicly state an interest in guest posts. These are very lucrative, because very few of your competitors will have links like this.
  16. Try to write a post about the keyword that the site ranks best for. This increases the odds of your guest post showing up in the search results, reaching a wider audience, and sending over more referral traffic. Keep in mind that, in order to accomplish this, you will need to have something new and interesting to say about the topic that the site hasn't published before.
  17. Pay attention to the user interface and the overall user experience visitors have when they come to the site. These can increasingly be considered ranking factors, and they are an indication of the faith and resources invested in the site.
  18. Bonus points if the blog has received any kind of award from a reputable organization.
  19. Try starting with resource lists along the lines of: “Top 10 Blogs about [Niche]” These will point you toward reputable blogs in the industry.
  20. If the top ten blogs are unattainable, look for blogs that have been featured on those top ten sites.

20 Things You Should Avoid

Your choices for guest posting opportunities are ridiculously numerous, and you will waste resources if you pursue guest posts from sub-par blogs. Future updates will inevitably rob these links of their value. That's why we don't recommend:

  1. Blogs that accept all content sent their way with the obvious goal of publishing as much content as quickly as possible.
  2. Blogs that have no clear target audience or subject matter. Even all-subject sites like The New York Times have an understanding of what their audience looks like and write accordingly. Any blog that has no idea what its audience wants should be avoided.
  3. Sites with excessive ads. This hurts user experience and is generally a sign of a low quality site.
  4. If your target audience has a geographic component, don't seek out guest posts with a different geographic target, unless it is of exceptional value.
  5. Avoid sites that don't post any of their own content, or rarely do. There are rare exceptions, such as Cracked, where most of the content is produced by guests, and the quality is exceptionally high. These are few and far between.
  6. Sites with poor design, confusing structure, a bad interface, or that offer a poor experience to their visitors.
  7. Sites with no contact information.
  8. In general, avoid sites with no social media presence. Exceptions can be made if the site clearly has a large following. There are some bloggers, for example, who are opposed to social networks or who don't want to waste time on them, but have nevertheless developed a large audience.
  9. Sites with a low PageRank and SEOmoz Domain Authority should typically be avoided. (A domain authority below 30 can generally be considered avoidable). Clearly, you should make exceptions for sites that have a large following regardless of these metrics, because they will almost inevitably gain positive signals in the future.
  10. Blogs that have fake followers on social networks. Check through a few profiles and you can usually identify whether they are human rather quickly.
  11. Blogs with guest post guidelines that are easy to meet with minimal effort.
  12. Blogs whose posts are uninteresting, not actionable, uninformed, or out of date.
  13. Any blog that has posted duplicate content, unless of course it was somebody else who copied them.
  14. Sites that have already been penalized. Always check to make sure that the blog ranks for its own brand name and other things it should clearly rank for, in order to ensure that it hasn't been penalized.
  15. Blogs that do not get updated regularly.
  16. Blogs that exist to earn ad revenue off of guest posts alone.
  17. Sites with exact match domains. There are nuances to this, of course. In general, though, you should stick to domains built around brands, not keywords.
  18. A blog that doesn't appear to receive any comments, tweets, likes, or any of the above should typically be avoided.
  19. Sites that allow visitors to post an article directly without approval from humans. These should always be avoided.
  20. Blogs that take months before posting your submission. In general, if a site is taking months to publish posts it means they don't care about fresh content. There are some exceptions for very popular sites. However, a popular with high standards will generally tighten its standards even more or increase its posting schedule, rather than setting posts months in the future. In general, it shouldn't take more than a month or so for your post to go live.

Where to Find Places to Guest Post

For starters, you can use the following services to find places that accept guest posts:

At the bottom of this post, we will also share a list of keywords to search for in order to find guest post opportunities. It's very long, so we won't distract you with it here.

Now, even though we've provided you with a lot of resources to work with here, we would actually suggest not relying too heavily on them. As guest posting increases in popularity, we can expect many of these tools to get abused. It's more important than ever to stand out, and if all of your links are coming from places like this, you won't be standing out.

We can't stress this enough. You need a unique link profile, and the key to that is going to be outreach. Make sure to spend a fair amount of time reaching out to blogs that don't go out of their way to get guest contributors, or ideally, who have never had a guest author before. These links are very lucrative and give your link profile the diversity it needs to survive future Google updates.

Here are some more unique places to get guest post ideas:

  • Do a search for broad industry keywords and find the most popular blogs
  • From the Google menu, click “More” and select “Blogs,” then do a search for broad industry keywords

  • From the Google menu, click “Discussions” and search for your keyword, and see what sites are getting talked about the most in the forum community

  • Search for your keywords on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Google+, and the like to find the most popular accounts that are associated with blogs
  • Search for “top ten [keyword] blogs” and use similar queries to find popular blogs

Don't include keywords like “submit guest post” when you use these methods, at least not every time. The goal is to find popular blogs that don't typically accept guest posts. Be resourceful and do some relationship building. It's worth the effort.

2. Developing an Outside-the-Box Guest Post Idea

Develop an Outside-the-Box Guest Post Idea

Depending on where you guest post, sometimes the idea will come before the outreach, and sometimes it will come after. Either way, it takes truly original ideas in order to get guest posts up on sites with high standards. This is crucial not just for getting your posts on authoritative sites, but for getting them shared, getting conversions, getting additional links, and getting traffic.

Generally, prerequisites for original ideas include:

  • Reading the top blogs in the industry
  • Setting up Google alerts for your main keywords
  • The involvement of your client for insight into the industry
  • Using Google Analytics, keyword tools, Google Insights and Trends, etc, to see what topics are popular in the industry
  • Use tools to find out what is trending

However, these are not the keys to producing truly original content. They merely set the bar. In order to produce something fresh and new, you will need to:

  • Use your client's proprietary data
  • Take a stance that goes against the grain a bit
  • Bring in insights from other disciplines and industries
  • StumbleUpon insider information
  • Spot relationships between subject matter that others haven't
  • Be funny, emotional, and opinionated
  • Use anecdotes, examples, or case studies
  • Point to related scientific studies
  • And…(God forbid)…hire writers or journalists who have already proven their skills

For an in depth discussion of how to make content production work, you can take a look at our content marketing guide for agencies. (Pinned by Moz team as well 🙂 )

Now, as much as we stress avoiding an over-reliance on tools, there are some great resources out there that can help you come up with original ideas:

  • Content Strategy Generator Tool – This tool from SEOgadget shares content ideas from Bing News, Reddit, YouTube, Topsy, Yahoo! Answers, Digg, and so on. It also suggests bloggers to get in touch with.
  • Google Analytics – Have you heard of this tool before? Nevertheless, you may never have considered it as a tool for content ideas. Keywords that people are landing on your site for are a good place to start.
  • Site Search – What are people searching for once they have landed on your site? There are content ideas buried in there as well.
  • Google Alerts – Try digging through your alerts emails and seeing if you can spot patterns or trends in the news that others may not have picked up on. Some of the best posts look for a common thread in the news and give a bird's eye view of what's been happening, looking for lessons, rather than just reporting on individual stories.

We were also impressed with what SkyRocketSEO had to say about getting content ideas. EvergreenSearch and SearchEngineWatch have also written wonderful and comprehensive content idea guides, and CopyBlogger has an excellent infographic on the subject.

Here's the most important part.

Before you pour everything into your guest post, check Google to make sure the idea is truly original. You want your post to say something new about the topic, so if the top posts in Google are looking a bit familiar, you need to head back to the drawing board before you waste your time.

3. Developing the Content

Develop the Great Content

Once you have an idea and a blog to target with your guest post, it's time to start building your content. And it's our opinion that you should almost always go big, even though the risks can seem higher, as Dr. Pete recently pointed out. When the content is big, you won't be willing to waste it on a sub-par blog, which, paradoxically, means you're taking less risk in the long run.

While you're developing the content, you'll want to:

  • Write with the blog's audience in mind. Read comments and pay attention to which posts get shared the most to aid you in this process
  • Don't hold anything back “for later.” Pour everything you have about a subject into the blog post
  • Use graphics
  • Cite authoritative sources
  • Use research data
  • Organize your posts with subheadings and lists, and keep the paragraphs short.
  • Get your points across quickly without padding the word count.
  • Use plain English.
  • Use anecdotes.
  • Use humor.
  • Figure out the most shocking, surprising, interesting, or humorous aspect of your post and mention it in the title and the first paragraph (ideally the first sentence). But don't give so much away that the reader has no reason to continue.
  • Use “cliffhangers,” “foreshadowing” and other elements used by fiction writers to keep readers engaged in suspense.

Now, some of these bullet points contradict each other or aren't appropriate for every single post, but they should give you an idea of what we mean by “big content.” Always keep the primary purpose of the post in mind. Does it exist to entertain, to inform, to shock? Every sentence should have purpose.

Our Experience with Search Engine Journal

As an example of the kind of content we're talking about, you can take a look at what we had to say about Link Earning Strategies for the Post-Panda/Penguin Era over at Search Engine Journal. As SEOmoz has pointed out, SEJ is one of the top blogs in the SEO industry, so sub-par content wasn't going to cut it.

In order to develop the post, we:

  • Hired talented copy editors to ensure the content was well written
  • Based the content off of a Quora discussion we had been involved in that already gained some traction
  • Made sure most of the visitors would be learning something new from the list
  • Organized the content with an easy to digest format
  • Knew the problem of building links in the wake of Google updates was a common one
  • Avoided stiff and formal language

Some might suggest that all of this is too much work, but, if anything, we think we probably could have done more. To understand why this kind of effort pays off, consider the fact that:

These are not the results you see from throwaway posts at

Author Bios

Sometimes we SEOs don't care much for author bios, or even hate them. A non-contextual link from an easily identified separate block of content…who cares? Well, we do. This is your sales pitch. Take advantage.

  • Make your author bio fun to read so that readers see you as a person, not an automaton.
  • Mention your brand name and don't focus on keywords. Branding matters!
  • Include links where they make the most sense and where they will drive maximum conversions, not where they send the (already outdated) signals to the search engines.
  • Encourage readers to contact you directly via Twitter or email so that they know you're available and ready to start a conversation with them.

4. Outreach


This is a huge part of the foundation behind a successful guest posting strategy. Yes, there are some high quality blogs where it's possible to get guest posts with minimal outreach as long as your content is exceptional and you have the right ideas.

That said, if outreach isn't an important part of your strategy, you will only be getting links from sites that regularly accept guest posts, and this doesn't offer the diversity your link profile needs in order to be genuinely robust, even if those links are high quality.

Keep the following in mind during outreach:

  • Have the right idea at the right time. Come in too late and your idea will be redundant. Focus on topics that are either relevant right now, or that you feel will be relevant in the very near future.
  • If the blog has guest posting guidelines, make sure you have met (and exceeded) them.
  • Mention examples of your previously successful content (either on your own site or others).
  • Demonstrate your authority with credentials, social profiles, awards, etc, but not to the point that it feels like you're gloating.
  • Approach the contact directly and speak to them like a human. Don't shy away from a bit of humor and don't be too formal. Avoid sounding in any way like an advertisement.
  • Don't take up too much time with the email expounding upon all the benefits of working with you.
  • Contact them directly through Twitter or Facebook if they are active on their profiles to have a real-time conversation.
  • Consider bringing up the possibility in a comment on a new blog post, as long as you also add value with your comment that relates to their blog post and contributes to the discussion.
  • Flattery can help if it's honest and it doesn't make you look pathetic. It's best to do this after they know what you want, rather than before, otherwise it looks manipulative. (Okay, what you want from me already…)
  • If the blogger has asked a question anywhere recently that doesn't seem to be answered, offer them an answer.
  • The entire conversation is about how you can help them, not about how they can help you.

Outreach Tools

Okay fine, we admit it, we love tools. Just don't confuse “tool” with “strategy.”

  • GroupHigh – Identify influential bloggers, track their reach, and send personalized messages through email or Twitter. Set up workflows and reminders to manage your contacts, and take advantage of geo-targetting for local clients.
  • BlogDash – Find and reach out to bloggers who already want to be contacted.
  • Rapportive – Get social feedback on your contacts directly from Gmail.
  • Buzz Stream – Manage your contacts easily so you can focus on link building and relationship building.

Our Outreach Experience With ProBlogger

ProBlogger is pretty much the site for professional bloggers, so like SEJ, it's not exactly easy to get a post on the site. Unfortunately, when some people hear this they think their emails need to be perfectly polished and sleek. Well, here's our initial outreach email with ProBlogger:

I have to admit it's a bit embarrassing to share my bare writing with no copy editing (I'm Indian if you can't tell), but that's kind of the point. This may not be sleek and professional, but it's human and it's clear that this isn't from a template.

We received a response within 24 hours, which we felt was a great sign, even though this was what they had to say:

What can I say, we should have known better. Original content is the key to success. If we had to guess, we would say that this is probably where most guest bloggers would give up. But that is not how you succeed. The candid response was, to us, a sign that they saw us as humans and would be interested in what we had to offer if the content was right.

This should serve as an example of how outreach, idea generation, and content production can all come together as part of the same process. We worked together with our copy editor and thought a bit about what ProBlogger's audience is looking for, and how we could offer a solution in a unique way.

Well, this will get a bit meta, because we realized that what bloggers need most are new ideas, and a method for getting them. We didn't want to regurgitate what had already been said by others on the site, so we turned to an original resource: psychological research. This turned out to be a great unique selling proposition for us.

You can see the post on ProBlogger under the title: Get Creative About Your Content…Consistently. It should serve as a good example of unique content, as well as a decent guide to come up with content ideas that goes beyond what we've talked about so far in this guide.

Now this post wasn't easy to put together. The insights came from dense peer-reviewed science papers, and it wasn't easy to translate that information into something useful as a guide for bloggers, but hopefully you can see why it was worth the effort.

Persistence is important. We're not ashamed to say that we were rejected twice by SearchEnginePeople. Instead, we're proud to say that on our third attempt, our post about finding original data for content marketing was approved. The key is to keep trying.

5. Promotion

Promote Your Guest Post

If you have chosen the right platform, and the content is original, helpful, and engaging, then your content has a good chance of going viral and, on some level, promoting itself. But, of course, you can dramatically improve your chances of success and expand your reach further if you take things to the next level and promote your guest post. Here are a few tactics to help that along:

  • Let your friends and business contacts know about the post, especially the ones who care about the topic and who have their own audience. This is one of many reasons you should be regularly exchanging emails and social messages with influencers, so that these kinds of requests don't seem unsolicited and rude.
  • Involve your client, and potentially any other clients who might be interested (but not competitors). Encourage them to share the material. You'll get bonus points here if your client has a lot of employees who would be willing to pass it along.
  • Include the guest post in your email signature.
  • Frequent Q&A sites, forums, and social networks that discuss your topic, and look for questions that your guest post helps answer. Offer them a few tips and suggest they read the full blog post for an in depth discussion.
  • Highlight the guest post on your own site. Don't be concerned, this isn't “reciprocal linking.”
  • Submit a press release about the guest post.
  • Respond to comments, especially questions, and thank people for adding to the conversation. Don't overreact to negative comments. If you can respond without getting angry, go ahead. If you get upset, you will probably do more harm than good.
  • Browse through your previous blog posts and link to the guest post where it makes sense. See if you can get your previous guest posts updated with a link to the new guest post as well. (This will be easier if you mention the old guest post in your new post first).

Conclusion: Make Your Guest Posts Count

Doing things differently is what sets you apart. There is no reason that this should change the second you start posting material on somebody else's property. Every piece of content you design should be produced with the goal of going viral, attracting links, and driving traffic.

Thinking of a piece of content as a way to build a single link simply doesn't have any appeal to us anymore. We hope to “re-brand” guest posting as part of a “big content” strategy, where the advantage of using somebody else's platform isn't just its domain authority, it's the potential to expand your reach and build relationships for further growth.

Guest Posting Query List: (As mentioned in the “Where to Find Places to Guest Post” section above)

We are tremendously excited about this new direction in guest posting, and we hope you share our enthusiasm. Please let us know what you think of our guide, and if you have some clever insights we would love to hear what you have to say in the comments. We would also love it if you could pass this along. Let's keep guest posting alive, and help people see it as real marketing!

  • “add guest post”
  • “become a contributor”
  • “become a guest blogger”
  • “become a guest writer”
  • “become an author”
  • “bloggers wanted”
  • “blogs accepting guest posts”
  • “blogs that accept guest bloggers”
  • “blogs that accept guest posts”
  • “contribute to our site”
  • “contribute”
  • “group writing project”
  • “guest bloggers wanted”
  • “guest blogging spot”
  • “guest contributor”
  • “guest post by”
  • “guest post guidelines”
  • “guest post”
  • “guest posts roundup”
  • “my guest posts”
  • “now accepting guest posts”
  • “places i guest posted”
  • “submission guidelines”
  • “submit a guest article”
  • “submit a guest post”
  • “submit guest post”
  • “suggest a guest post”
  • “the following guest post”
  • “this guest post is from”
  • “this guest post was written”
  • “this is a guest article”
  • “this is a guest post by”
  • “want to write for”
  • “write for us”
  • inurl:guest-post-guidelines
  • inurl:guest-posts
  • inurl:write-for-us
  • keyword “accepting guest posts”
  • keyword “guest blogging”
  • keyword “guest post by”
  • keyword “guest post guidelines”
  • keyword “guest post”
  • keyword “guest posting”
  • keyword “submit a guest post”
  • keyword “submit an article”
  • keyword “submit post”
  • keyword “write for us”
  • keyword + contribute
  • keyword + guest blogging
  • keyword + submit an article
  • keyword + submit guest post
  • keyword + submit post
  • keyword + submit your post
  • keyword + write for us

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Results of Our 1st Annual Moz Chili Cook-off

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Posted by Justin_Vanning

A little over a week ago, we were flying high here at the Mozplex. Our beloved Seahawks were in the 2nd round of the playoffs, and we were basking in the aromas and tastes of over 20 different chili's during our 1st annual Moz Chili Cook-off. 

Fast forward a week. Our eyes are still red from the tears we shed during that heartbreaking Seahawks loss, but our bellies are still warm from all the chili we ate. 

Because all of the chili entries were so tantalizingly-delicious, it just didn't feel right to keep them all to ourselves. We figured some of you might want to try out our winning recipes for your tailgate or Super Bowl parties, or share your own favorite chili recipes in the comments. An outline of the competition and the top chili recpies are listed in detail below. Happy chili-ing!

The Cook-off

For the 1st annual Moz Chili Cook-off, 20 Mozzers brought in their best batches of chili to be judged by their peers. 

Each participating Mozzer got a bowl, a spoon, some cornbread to clear their palate in between taste tests, and a score sheet to judge the chili on the following criteria: 

  • Best overall chili
  • Best meat chili
  • Best vegetarian chili
  • Best spicy chili
  • Best named chili
  • Best use of creative ingredients

The competition was fierce, with the title of "Moz Chili Master" and a custom-made Roger chili trophy on the line.

The games began, and after all the chilis had been tasted, it was time for the scores to be tallied. The winners in each category were:

Although listing every winning recipe was tempting, we decided to just list the top three overall picks, along with our winning veggie concoction. Enjoy!

1st Place Overall – David J's Smoldering Chili

David Joslin basking in the title of "Moz Chili Master," along with his snazzy Roger trophy.


  • 2 lbs smoked beef briskeet with s&p rub
  • 2 lbs smoked pork butt with s&p rub
  • 2 lbs 80/20 ground beef
  • 2 onions
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, finely chopped
  • 2 dates
  • 1 roasted, pealed, and seeded pablano pepper
  • 1 roasted, pealed, and seeded california pepper
  • 1 roasted, pealed, and seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 4 cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 1 large beer
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbs worcestershire
  • 2 Tbs tamari
  • 2 shots espresso
  • 1 tsp chipotle tabasco 
  • 1 Tbs Better Than Bouillon or beef base
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 Tbs cumin
  • 6 Tbs chili powder
  • 4 Tbs gebhards chili powder
  • 1 Tbs pasilla chili powder
  • 1 Tbs ancho chili powder
  • 2 dried chili pablano ground
  • 2 dried chili New Mexico ground
  • 3 dried chili arbol ground
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbs oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 Tbs turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 2 Tbs roasted tomato flakes
  • 3 Tbs masa
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 cans red kidney beans
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile


  1. The night before (at least), smoke the brisket and the butt for 12 hours at 225 degrees, after rubbing with pepper and salt. Foil the brisket after six hours. If you don't want to go the gonzo-smoked meat route, you could just use two lbs of beef chuck and two lbs of pork shoulder in a 3/8" dice, and add 2-3 Tbs liquid smoke.
  2. Dice all the veggies and sauté in oil for 10 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Drain the fat. I used a turkey baster.
  3. Blacken the fresh pepper on the BBQ or over a burner flame. Bag for 5 minutes, peal, seed, and chop. 
  4. Add the canned tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir well and cook for five minutes. Chop all the meat in to a rough 3/8 dice. Exclude as much fat as you can. Add to the pot as you go. 
  5. Add the wet ingredients, down to the garlic powder. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. 
  6. Add the dry ingredients down to the masa. Ground celery seed can be substituted for the fenugreek and the roasted tomato flakes can be substituted with chopped dried tomatoes.
  7. Cook 1.5-2 hours. Stir now and then and add chicken stock if it gets too thick or starts to burn.
  8. Now start tasting. Here is where I added additional chili powders and pepper until the heat was balanced across the entire palette. Once you are happy with the flavor, add the drained and rinsed beans and cook for 30 minutes. Taste again. Salt will most certainly be needed. If any adjustments besides salt are required, make the changes and cook for 20 mins longer. 
  9. Consume!

2nd Place Overall – Justin's Chili Con Carnage


  • 2 lbs beef chuck roast, cubed
  • 1 lb ground chuck or organic ground beef – can use ground turkey or buffalo
  • 1 lb boneless pork chops, cubed
  • 1 lb chorizo (I used veal chorizo from whole foods)
  • 2 Tbs Worcestershire
  • 2 sweet or purple onions finely chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 jalapeño peppers seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 pablano pepper seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 serano pepper seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 can chopped green chilies
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large can tomato paste
  • 1 cup chili sauce (Heinz or something else)
  • 3 Tbs chili powder – add more to taste
  • 1 Tbs cayenne pepper – add more if you like it spicy
  • 3 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1-2 Tbs ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt – more to taste
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 bottles of beer – I usually use Budweiser or Coors
  • 2-3 shots of whisky
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans sweet corn, drained
  • 2-4 cups beef broth – add during cooking


  1. In a large skillet, brown your meat and pork. Drain the fat. 
  2. Add onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook till veggies are tender. 
  3. Transfer to large stock pot and add all the other ingredients except the corn, beans and tomato paste. Cook for 6-8 hours at a medium simmer (just below a boil) to burn off liquid. If it gets too thick or starts to burn, add beef broth. In the last hour or so, add your corn, beans and tomato paste. You can cook/simmer this for longer than 8 hours if you want to make it even thicker. 

3rd Place Overall – Chris Auty's Chili


  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 10 ounces ground buffalo
  • 10 ounces ground turkey
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 14-ounce cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • 1 16-ounce can of dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 small green bell pepper ribbed, seeded, and diced


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the meat and onions until browned; season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Put the mixture in the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and a splash of water. 
  3. Stir in the baking soda; the mixture will foam. After 5 minutes, stir the kidney beans, brown sugar, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. 
  4. Cover with lid and cook on low for four hours. 
  5. Add the bell pepper during the last hour of cooking. Adjust the seasoning and/or add corn starch to thicken if needed before serving.

Best Vegetarian Chili – Elizabeth's "What do you mean, there's no meat in this?" Chili


  • 3 Tbs EVOO
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 10-oz frozen or canned corn
  • 1 small can diced Hatch chilies
  • 1 package Field Roast Veggie Sausage (I prefer the Mexican Chipotle or Italian Sausage), crumbled
  • 2 10-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 10-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 10-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can and 1 10-oz can chunky tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Chili powder to taste (I use a ton)
  • Cumin to taste (I use a ton)
  • 3 tbsp apple cider or coconut vinegar


  1. Sauté garlic, onions, carrots, jalapeño, and peppers in olive oil on medium-high heat until the onions begin to turn translucent and "sweat."
  2. Add crumbled veggie sausage, thoroughly mix with veggies. When the carrots are tender (but before the onions get too soggy), mix in the Hatch chilies, vinegar, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa. Stir.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, then 15 oz of cold water to the pot. As the mixture returns to a cheerful boil, add the chili powder and cayenne. 
  4. Once a boil is achieved, add all the beans and corn, return to a boil. 
  5. Add cumin, then reduce to a simmer. The longer it simmers, the better. Seriously. Enjoy!

So there you have it, folks! Hopefully these chili recipes will fill your hearts and tummies with as much love as they did for the Mozzers. If you have any great chili recipes or tips, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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My Favorite Way to Get Links and Social Shares – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

So you've got a new blog post you're ready to reveal to the interwebs. You've worked hard on the content, and now you really need to drive activity on it.

If you don't have a widespread network of contacts to help you, you may need some tips to help drive that traffic. In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his favorite way to get links and social shares, while simultaneously seeding future plans to get links automatically built for you.

Make sure to refer back to Rand's post on What Separates a "Good" Outreach Email from a "Great" One for more in-depth tips on conducting outreach.

We'd love to hear your feedback on these processes! If you have thoughts or something to add, make sure to leave it in the comments below.

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I thought I would talk about what my personal favorite methodology for getting links in social shares is. A lot of folks ask about this like, "I need to get a lot of links. I've got to share this new blog post. I have a new white paper I want to put out. I'm trying to get people to share this webinar." Whatever it is, you have some people that have content that you really need to drive activity on, and I understand that.

So even the search engines have evolved. Certainly links are still a huge part of the algorithm, especially in Google and Bing, and we're still seeing the value that social shares can bring, in terms of being a leading indicator or highly correlated with lots of links coming to them. Certainly when you need to get activity and you've got to get something announced and get awareness built, these are very helpful.

I actually don't like a lot of the classic methodologies that are kind of go out there and push a link or acquire a link from a place. I really love it when people will automatically build links to me. If that doesn't happen though, or if you need a seed to get that process started, where people can start coming to you and linking automatically because they like what you've done, to seed that I love getting people, that I'm involved with, involved in that process, meaning friends, colleagues, business connections, people in the community, people who are in the particular field where I'm operating in, where I'm creating content, who might have an interest in it. That's a great way to go to help seed this process. If you don't already have that built up though, it's really hard to get that started, unless you do this. This is my absolute favorite process for this kind of work.

Step one. Go out and assemble a list, as big or as small as you want – it can be as niche or as widespread as you want – of people, friends, colleagues, people who you admire, whom you would like to help out, meaning you want to help them promote their stuff. For example, I might email some other companies in The Foundry and Ignition Portfolios, other companies that have been invested by our investors. I might email some other people in the SEO community, some of my agency friends, and in-house SEO friends, some speakers that I've spoken with at other conferences, some people I really admire on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and that kind of stuff. Then I would reach out to them. Maybe your dentist has a great website and is very web savvy and active, your travel blogger friend, your buddy on Twitter, your old boss, or a writer you admire. Whoever these people are, you're going to help them. You'll see where I'm going with this in a minute.

Step two. You need to reach out to them. That outreach process looks like this. Note that you want to share and recommend some stuff. It really helps if you've got, either on your personal website or your blog or your company's site, a recommended resources. These are companies and people or company's content and resources that we recommend, we've loved here at SEOmoz, or I have loved personally over the years and would recommend to you as well. I do this with books and with vendors here in Seattle, that we've used as a company, or that I've encountered. I do it with SEO people. I have a whole recommended list of SEOs. All this kind of stuff.

Then I would note to those people, "Hey, I'm trying to get more active in my social sharing and building up my recommendations list, and you're a person that I really like and admire. Do you have anything that you would like some help promoting? Is there anything I can do to help you promote something out there? Is there something I can link to for you, maybe put on a recommended list. I could socially share this. I could tweet it. I could put up a Google+ post about it." Keep that email just short and friendly. You can reuse a lot of that same email. I'll do this sometimes when I outreach to people. I'll construct the body of it, and I'll just put a new opening line or two and a new closing line or two, but the body of that main paragraph will stay the same.

Then people will reply to you. They'll be like, "Oh my gosh, Rand. That's awesome of you. Yeah, actually I wrote this post last week. It hasn't got a ton of attention, but I think it's a good one. Would you help share it? I think you've got a community of technology people who would really care about this." Or, "Yeah, actually, my friend runs a cleaning service here in Seattle, and I would love if you could reference them. That would be a great citation for them." Terrific. Great. Now I am going out and helping all of these folks, and in the future, right after you've helped all the people, the next time you need help promoting something, whatever it is, you have a group, a list of folks that you know you have already helped out. You can reach out to them again and say, "Hey, I have this thing, and if it's not too much trouble, I would love some help promoting it."

This is not a direct reciprocation, like, "Well, I did this for you, so now you do this for me." This is just seeding the pot. You are creating a positive impression with these folks. Trust me, a lot of the time, even if you don't have something to promote, if you do this for people in your network and people in your world, just try and make their lives better and promote their stuff, they will automatically be incented for the next few months to do something nice for you. If they can think of anything, they will try and do it for you. They will be more likely to help you out. If you do ask for a share, you'll be more likely to get it.

This process is very, very effective in getting results and getting a group of folks who can help you share. I highly urge you to do this. I think the wonderful thing about this is that you're going to help all these people before you ask for any help yourself, which is a great thing too.

All right, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by

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How To Devise Your SEO Strategy The Easy Way – With a Planning Template

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If there’s one thing both business owners and SEO consultants can benefit enormously from, it’s a strategy planning template.  Everyone knows that a strategy-based approach to marketing will trounce a competing approach that is purely tactical.  The difficulty lies in coming up with a winning strategy, especially when your organization hasn’t formally devised one before.

Enter the SEO Strategy Template

It’s a simple set of ‘rules’ (more like guidelines) that you can follow like a roadmap, adapt and tweak, modify and customize, until you have a unique strategy planning document for marketing your business. 

This is such an easily repeatable and reproducible process that it is surprising that everyone within the SEO industry is not already exploring, using or implementing such an approach to evolving an SEO strategy.

So if you’re interested in formulating your company’s strategy using an easy-to-follow and powerful process, then read about this method to create a planning template based on the SOSTAC model.

Introducing The SOSTAC Planning Model

In the 1990s, PR Smith introduced the SOSTAC strategy framework to help plan a marketing system that is comprehensive, yet flexible enough to be adapted to fit the varying needs of a wide range of clients.

SOSTAC stands for:

  • Situation – where you are now
  • Objectives – where you are heading
  • Strategy – how to get there
  • Tactics – how to execute the plan
  • Actions – who is in charge, and when should it get done
  • Control – measure and monitor to see if you get there

   This systematic approach to outlining a superior marketing strategy is both simple and elegant, while being powerful and effective.  You can use it as the framework of a planning template for your SEO strategy.  

Let’s explore it in more detail.

1. Situation Analysis – Where Are You Now?

Before you begin any marketing effort, you must know where you stand at the moment.  From an SEO standpoint, you’ll look at

  • your site performance
  • the search engine traffic you’re getting
  • your best keywords with highest conversion rates, and
  • comparison against your competition

Taking stock will make your future endeavors more productive.  Asking the right questions, and coming up with the answers, is a good starting point.

a. Is business good?  Management guru Peter Drucker would begin consultations with the question, “How’s business?”  Study your Web traffic, sales volume and profit, your assets and liabilities, your cash flow and expenses.  Is business booming?  If not, why not?

b. What are your strengths?  What sets you apart from everyone else in your industry or market niche?  Why do your customers seek you out?  How are you insulated against competition?

c. Do you have a marketing strategy?  Look at your current marketing campaigns and SEO efforts.  Do they work well?  Which activities are the most effective?  What impact does each one have on your business?

d. Are your goals clear?  Is your target audience clearly defined?  Do you know your best keywords?  Your most profitable clients (and top keywords) make up only a tiny fraction of the total.  Are you aware of them?  Are you focusing on serving them well?

e. What are you weak at?  Are you employing the most cost-effective and high impact marketing channels and SEO efforts?  How can they be made more efficient?

f. Is your business protected against adversity?  Will technological innovations or disruption in the status quo harm or destroy your business?  Or are you positioned to take advantage of seismic shifts in your industry?  Are your competitors more powerful, versatile, creative than you are?

2. Setting Objectives – Where Are You Headed?

Once you know where you stand, you must define your goals and objectives for the future.

a. What are your biggest goals?  Why does your business or website exist?  Is your mission statement clearly defined, and can you state it in a concise “positioning declaration”?  It will explain why you are in business, and whom you aim to serve.

b. What does your business set out to achieve?  Is bottom-line profit your primary motive?  Or do you want to achieve something else?  How do you plan to serve your market?

c. What marketing methods will you focus on?  Which elements of your SEO plan will bring you more clients, improve conversion to sales, and result in repeat business and/or referrals?

d. What does your marketing say?  Are you trying to generate more leads, pre-qualify serious prospects, close more direct sales, encourage referrals or seek out business partners?  Your message must be tailored specifically for each objective if you are to succeed massively.

When you have a set of well-defined objectives, run them through the SMART test to see if they are really your highest and best targets.

S – Specific.  Are your goals clear and specific?
M – Measured.  Can your goals be measured?
A – Actions.  What actions will make them happen?
R – Realistic.  Are they achievable goals?
T – Time.  Will they meet your deadlines?

Knowing where you stand, and armed with your major objectives, it’s time to proceed to the next stage – and iron out your strategy.

3. Formulating Strategy – How To Get There?

Strategy is the high level blueprint for your SEO efforts.  It may involve a focus on local SEO, or brand building, or something else.  This is the ‘big picture’ phase, and you don’t have to get into too many details.  But you do need to capture the soul of your SEO strategy in a clear and solid way.

The first step is to narrow down your focus to appeal to a specific section of your audience that you can serve better than anyone else.  Depending upon the size and scope of your business, this segment may be large or small.  But by defining your target market clearly, you’ll avoid the major pitfall that defeats all non-strategic marketers – the mistaken belief that your ideal prospect is… everyone!

Once you know, in general terms, who your prospects are, you can proceed to learn more about them.  Getting into the mind of your buyers, and correctly figuring out what they want, and when, can be your biggest competitive edge and the driver of mind-blowing profits.  Targeting your marketing to appeal to this audience can skyrocket conversions effortlessly.

Based on this knowledge, you can refine your positioning and control how you will be perceived by your market.

4. Tactics – How To Execute Your Plan?

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  And your strategy is only as powerful as the actions that you will take to execute it.

This phase is about outlining the steps to take, and their desired end-result.  It’s hard to predict SEO outcomes accurately, but you’ll be able to make reasonable estimations, which will then serve as a roadmap for your SEO campaign.

a. Which tools will you use?  Every kind of marketing (including SEO) has an array of tools to deploy at will.  It’s tempting to try them all.  But it’s better to use just a few, using them effectively and well.

b. Plan your assault.  The same tools can be put to use with widely varying results.  Picking the right one for the right reasons can have a synergistic effect on your results.

c. Telegraph your message.  Target it at your ideal prospect.  Refine it to cut through the clutter and speak directly to your audience’s biggest wants or needs.  Remember, confused prospects don’t buy!

d. Be consistent.  Branding and direct selling both work better with repetition. 

e. Get a budget.  Marketing strategically can be expensive, at first.  Assign the resources and funds necessary to your marketing plan before you begin implementing it.  Otherwise you’ll run out of steam, losing momentum and money.

5. Actions – Who Is In Charge?

With your strategy and tactics planned out, your template then points you towards the next step… assigning roles and setting deadlines. 

Without clearly defined responsibilities, and a time frame within which to complete tasks, your marketing will stagnate and lose speed.  This phase is about the nitty-gritty daily actions – what to do, who will do it, and when it should get done.  Whether you chart it out on a week-by-week basis, or choose a different time frame, what matters is having an outline that everyone can access and follow.

a. Pick a leader.  Put individuals in charge of specific components of your SEO activities.

b. Set a time frame.  Draw up a marketing calendar and set deadlines for completion of each action step.

c. Can they do it?  Assigning tasks to someone based on a job description rather than their ability, skill or capacity to get it done can be a critical mistake.

d. Measure progress.  Decide upon the metrics to monitor.  Will they show if a job is getting done?  Can they be easily measured?  How often will you keep track?

e. Document results.  Sharing visual feedback and results of your campaign’s progress can help get a team energized, and working better together.  In today’s complex SEO universe, having a synergistic team effort can compound your chances of success.

6. Control – Monitor & Measure

The Web analytics portion of any SEO project is where you’ll look at progress, and review it in the context of the initial situation analysis.  The feedback serves to redefine and tweak your strategy, closing the loop, and making the system more powerful as it grows and evolves over time.

a. Keep measurements relevant.  Higher search rankings matter.  But it’s more important to measure bottom-line impact on business profitability.

b. Who will measure metrics?  Scripts and software record data, but someone must compile and present it to team members.  If trends can be spotted early, you can modify actions to get higher results.

c. How often to measure data?  Collecting and analyzing information shouldn’t
become an end in itself.  Choose an optimal schedule, and stick to it.

d. What tools and resources do you need?  How complex and costly your monitoring systems must be depend on the scope and scale of your business and the diversity of your SEO efforts.

e. How will the data be interpreted?  What will be the impact of this analysis on your SEO strategy?  Your planning template must explain this clearly upfront.

f. What’s your back up plan?  If things don’t go right, how will you bail out?  Who decides when to switch plans?  When will it happen?  While you can’t factor in all eventualities, having a set of options is helpful.  Remember, when everything else is equal, the one with the most options wins!

So, there you are!  A planning template for your SEO strategy that can be reliably constructed through following a step by step plan modeled on the powerful SOSTAC framework.

Keep in mind that increased revenues and profit, achieving major business goals, getting to them faster, and lowering costs are the biggest advantages of having a planning template.  It beats blindly using SEO tools or following standardized SEO checklists, and hoping for stellar results.

A strategic effort is slightly more effort-intensive.  It will initially cost more to implement.  It may even take longer to fructify.  But when it does, the results will blow your competition out of the water – and skyrocket your results! 

That’s what makes an SEO strategy desirable, and a planning template worth developing.

All roads lead to Rome.  There are many ways to arrive at a winning SEO strategy based on a planning template.  In more than a decade spent working in the SEO and digital marketing industry, this approach detailed above has been what worked effectively for me.  That’s the reason I want to share this to help and motivate other business owners and SEO consultants who understand the importance of having an SEO strategy, but are not sure how to go about crafting one.

If you know of a better (or different) way to apply the SOSTAC model to evolve an SEO strategy and create a planning template, do let us know.  I’ll do my best to answer questions and help in any way I can.  Please share your comments, questions or suggestions in a comment below, or write to me using the contact form.  I’d love to get a vibrant discussion going on this all-important topic of SEO strategy.

Trond Lyngbø is a Senior SEO Strategist at Metronet Norge with over 10 years of experience. Trond is the author of the books “Importance of SEO for Your Online Business” and “Power Social Media Marketing”. He can be found on Twitter @TrondLyngbo.



SEO Predictions 2013: New Tools, Social Spam Witch Hunt and the Knowledge Graph

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SEO Predictions 2013: New Tools, Social Spam Witch Hunt and the Knowledge Graph was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

‘Tis the season of reflections and SEO predictions, and yes, here’s another for 2013: SEO and search marketing in the coming year is going to see trends in the way of SEO ranking data and tools that work in compliance with Google’s terms of service, more interest in Google’s Knowledge Graph and putting the kibosh on social media spam, according to Bruce Clay in his 2013 predictions.

Interested in hearing more about these SEO predictions for 2013? Check out this month’s SEO Newsletter feature story: “2013 Internet Marketing Forecast by Bruce Clay.”

And while we’re on the topic of predictions, nothing helps you ponder the future better than analyzing the trends of the year previous. And we’ve got some gems for you there, too. First, what happened globally in search marketing, and then how’d Bruce do on his 2012 predictions?h

We rounded up Bruce Clay Australasia, Bruce Clay Japan and Bruce Clay Europe to talk about the trends of the year in their neck of the woods. I think you’ll find it interesting to see the adoption rate of certain methodologies across the globe, and what’s important to different business communities.

In the article, “What Internet Marketing Tactics Were in Demand around the World in 2012?“, we asked six questions of our offices in three very different locations across the globe:

  1.  What were the buzz words of Internet marketing in 2012?
  2. In what concrete ways did SEO change in 2012?
  3. What proved to be the most effective SEO tactics of 2012, the most popular or the most requested?
  4. What was the demand for content and content marketing in 2012 compared to 2011?
  5. How did budgets for Internet marketing shift in 2012?
  6. What was the demand for link building in 2012 compared to 2011?

And the big question is: How did Bruce do on his predictions for the state of search marketing in 2012? Virginia Nussey put together this month’s Back to Basics article, “Bruce’s 2012 Predictions Scored: How Accurate Was He?” and says:

“It’s one thing to make a prediction. It’s another thing to be held accountable for your claim. There might be far fewer fortune tellers in the world if they were confronted by the accuracy of their soothsaying later down the line.

Bruce is a veteran SEO who has witnessed the rise of Google, seen the value of search algorithm ranking factors ebb and flow, watched the results page morph and grow, observed the many faces of spam, and assisted countless companies to develop websites that attract visitors and establish loyal communities.

Bruce has been at the forefront of the online marketing industry since 1996; it’s hard to be involved with something for that long and not see patterns.”

The article analyzes his forecast for 2012 using survey data from readers just like you who cast their vote to score how his predictions panned out in conjunction with feedback from thought leaders in our industry, including:

  • Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners and chair of Conversion Conference
  • Motoko Hunt, president and search marketing strategist at AJPR
  • Kendra Jaros, VP of marketing at Third Door Media
  • Joe Kerschbaum, VP at Clix Marketing and author of Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing: An Hour a Day
  • Mike Ramsey, owner of Nifty Marketing and The Voice

The results? You’ll have to check out the article to find out!

So what are your 2013 SEO predictions? Have you got any feedback on Bruce’s for 2013? Don’t be shy — tell us about it right here in the comments section below!

Bruce Clay Blog

How I Use SEOmoz for Local Optimization Today

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Posted by David Mihm

Hard to believe it’s already been two months since I’ve been a part of the SEOmoz team! We’ve made some great progress on syncing up our codebase with the SEOmoz development environment. Once that process is complete, the fun part REALLY begins, and we will start to build out additional Local functionality over the course of 2013 and beyond. I can’t wait to write Version Two of this post once we’ve got more of that functionality built.

As an SEOmoz PRO customer since the service launched in February 2007, I thought I’d give a quick little tour of how I’ve used SEOmoz’s existing tools for Local optimization in my consulting role at David Mihm, Inc. over the past six years.

Throughout the last 18 months, I’ve been helping my cousin Tracy with her small business Group Insurance PDX, which I'll use as an example for this post.

Keyword Difficulty Tool

My Goals:

  • Determine how realistic it is for an SMB site to rank
  • Assess optimization efforts to-date
  • Identify SMB competition
  • Identify large, fixed objects for “Barnacle SEO


  1. Launch the Keyword Difficulty Tool
  2. Enter the keywords you want to analyze
  3. View report for each keyword
  4. Pay attention to Domain Authority
  5. (Optional) Analyze backlink profiles of SMB Competitors using OpenSiteExplorer


The keyword difficulty tool makes competitive research more efficient. Simply run a handful of these reports and, at a glance, you get a sense for who the major players are in your competitive space, and just how dominant they are. I like to pay particular attention to domain authority (rather than page authority) in Local because many small business websites have very few pages, and Google tends to display the homepage for many more terms than you’d typically see in an e-commerce or more national B-to-B space.

As you analyze the list of sites returned for your keywords, keep your eyes peeled for “Barnacle SEO” opportunities — large, high-authority sites that you might be at a disadvantage to outrank on your own, but offer the opportunity for comments, business listings, or traditional web directory listings. Getting cited or linked to from these bigger guys will give your own site a leg up, and you may be able to get a secondary clickthrough if searchers actually end up on those pages. If it’s your own profile that ranks on those larger players, you may end up with two results on the main SERP.

For the smaller players, check out their backlinks using OpenSiteExplorer simply by clicking the magnifying glass next to their website.

In Tracy’s case, I’m pretty pleased that a relatively young site is competing so favorably in organic SERPs for a lot of her top keywords. The keyword difficulty tool helped identify four of her Local competitors, one IYP where she should consider getting a listing (Dex Knows), and a couple of sites (OregonLive and Examiner) that at the very least she could comment on, and could yield some promising social media relationships.

Clicking through to the Examiner story in particular, the author writes frequently about topics right in Tracy’s wheelhouse, and includes a pretty extensive bio and a prominent Twitter handle. Her following count exceeds her follower count by a 5:1 ratio, which means she’s probably pretty excited about gaining new contacts in social media. This would be a great person for Tracy to get to know.


My Goals:

  • Identify authoritative local (“Location Prominent”) inbound link and citation sources
  • Identify low-hanging inbound link opportunities
  • Identify active social networking prospects


  1. Enter site to search in URL box (or click magnifying glass next to site in Keyword Difficulty tool)
  2. Add additional competitors for a high-level overview
  3. Choose all links, only external, to pages on this root domain
  4. Sort links returned by Domain Authority for SMB competitors
  5. Pay attention to high-Domain-Authority links
  6. Run an Advanced Report for geographic anchor text on SMB competitors
  7. Run an Advanced Report for product/service anchor text on high-Domain-Authority competitors
  8. Save links that look promising as potential guest blog, content outreach, or local sponsorship opportunities


The OpenSiteExplorer index has never really taken a deep enough dive on traditional citation sources (i.e., Internet Yellow Pages sites), and that’s one thing I’ll be working with the SEOmoz Engineering team on this year. However, it does do an excellent job of surfacing high-value inbound links.

Obviously, every business wants high-value/high-authority inbound links. But they’re particularly important in Local, where one of Google’s many patents regarding PlaceRank references “the highest score of documents referring to a business.”  In other words, one extremely high-quality, locally-relevant link or citation can be a difference maker in Local rankings, especially in competitive markets.

As I said above in the Keyword Difficulty section, in Local, Domain Authority tends to exceed Page Authority as a ranking consideration. Because of this, my ears prick up whenever I see a high-ranking small business with one or more of these incoming links. In Tracy’s case, several of her competitors had links from high Domain Authority sources: (the website of the main newspaper in Portland), the Building Industry Association of Clark County, and two smaller local newspapers (one as a sponsorship, one covering a local neighborhood association meeting).

This exercise yields several link building ideas:

  • Establishing a relationship with the OregonLive reporter (more on this in Followerwonk section)
  • Creating a dedicated page on her own website for each of her clients, that they can send their employees to for healthcare information
  • Sponsoring key local events covered by newspapers
  • Inviting newspaper reporters and other local bloggers to key meetings for each of the three groups on which she serves on the Board


My Goals:

  • Start REAL, offline relationships via Twitter
  • Identify high-influence social networking prospects
  • Identify Twitter users likely to participate in a conversation
  • Identify additional marketing/link building opportunities


  1. Identify a core group of three popular Twitter accounts to follow.  These can be distributors, brands, or manufacturers whose products you sell, competitors, popular neighborhood businesses, etc.
  2. Visit the Compare Users tab of Followerwonk
  3. See who follows all three accounts
  4. Sort them by influence score
  5. Reverse-sort them by number of followers
  6. Start following them
  7. Read their Tweets to understand what makes them tick
  8. Reach out to them with great content!


As you can probably tell from her Tweet stream, Tracy’s like most small business owners. She doesn’t immediately understand Twitter, and unlike those of us who do Internet marketing for a living full-time, she doesn’t have time to monitor her contacts’ streams 24×7 or send out a lot of Tweets herself. She needs a core group of folks to follow and some crib notes of how to interact with them in a way that will lead to some downstream benefit online. It's important for her to figure out who is most likely to:

  • Start up a conversation
  • Retweet her content
  • Lead to additional marketing opportunities like guest columns or interview requests

Tracy is a major extrovert and very active in traditional business groups, including her local Rotary club, local neighborhood association, and local business association. In her case,  the goal is just to translate her offline comfort with networking into the Twittersphere.

In this case, I’m looking for people interested in her space, so I chose to compare three of the insurance carriers she represents. Folks who follow all three of them are probably pretty interested in health care for small business owners! I then looked at accounts that were high-authority, but very few followers, to identify those who would most likely pay attention if Tracy were to start up a conversation with them.

Among the group that Followerwonk helped me identify were the healthcare reporter for the Oregonian (whose Twitter bio says “tips welcome”) and Cover Oregon, the statewide health exchange launching later this year (but only has 124 Twitter followers so far). Pretty awesome opportunities to start some productive relationships, wouldn’t you say?

Well, that’s my real-life example. I am sure that among our 18,000+ PRO subscribers, many of you are more actively involved in Local Search at a tactical level and have great input on how you use our tools. I’d love to hear about some of them in the comments! And if you have ideas for features you’d like to see in our forthcoming Local products, please pass them along here. Thanks for reading!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Post-Penguin Anchor Text Case Study

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Posted by Court Tuttle

It's no secret that Google's Panda and Penguin updates caused a lot of panic. SEOs and marketers were FREAKING out and honestly, I got tired of reading about it – I'm sure most of you did too. Although I'm pretty turned off to information about these updates, I've been really interested in the anchor text issues surrounding the Penguin update. If sites that have over-optimized anchors lost traffic due to the update, it seems to make sense that sites can move up with relatively few (or without any) anchored links. I wanted to test that idea and decided that it was time for a good, old fashioned case study.

Designing the Case Study

Instead of trying to sound cool and acting like I designed a super professional case study, I'll just tell you how it really happened. I simply wanted to know if I could take a brand new domain (with no links obviously), and get it to rank for a decently competitive term, in an oft-spammed niche by getting links (mostly non-exact match keyword anchored) from relevant pages of relevant sites.

Finding the Keyword Phrase

So I wanted to use a semi-difficult keyword phrase that was in a spammy niche. That way the case study would be more conclusive. I looked at a lot of different options for keywords – most of them were in the finance vertical and were based on credit cards, loans, or credit. I decided eventually that I would try to find a credit-related keyword. That way, I wouldn't end up with a ranking for a loan or credit card keyword, without being able to provide the actual loan or credit card the searcher was looking for. Credit keywords, on the other hand, are informational in nature and fit better with the content (which is admittedly ghetto right now) I could produce. The phrase I ended up choosing is '650 credit score'. Using the SEOmoz Pro Keyword Difficulty Tool, the phrase has a keyword difficulty score of 50, which is in the range I wanted. It's difficult enough for a good test but not difficult enough to make getting results impossible. Here's what the phrase looks like:

Setting Up the Site

On August 14, 2012, I set up the site on a brand new domain – (not going to link from here because I don't want to compromise the case study). I used WordPress as my CMS and wrote six articles about having a credit score in the 650 range. The content is passable but honestly, not amazing. I do know a lot about credit and have improved my own credit score from under 500 to over 800. I was also personally in the 650 range for a while. On top of that I spoke with a loan officer to get information about getting loans with a 650 score. That said, I didn't take 10 hours to write each of the articles. The site design is horrendous (not my strong point).

I'm fully aware that the site is not the 'ultimate resource' on this topic, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if the site had 'Panda' issues at some point. My bounce rate is ridiculously high. The keyword phrase I'm going after is on the home page twice – once at the top in a heading, and once as a label for the comments. I'm not using spammy linking strategy inside the site. All of my articles are linked to from the sidebar but I've used anchors that don't contain the exact phrase, on purpose.

Linking Strategy

I wanted to get relevant links from sites that either were exclusively about credit or credit scores, or already had a lot of information on one of these topics. I wrote guest posts for sites that I found in the Finance category of PostRunner (a guest-posting community/portal that I co-founded) as the source of all of the links, with the exception of one link that I got from making a cheesy video that I posted on YouTube (not my greatest accomplishment). This link is of course no-followed like all links from YouTube. Here are the anchors for the links that I used in the case study, in the order that I got them:

  1. here
  2. Doctor 650
  3. my site
  4. Dissecting The 650 Credit Score
  5. here
  7. here
  8. (no-followed link from YouTube)
  9. resource on 650 credit scores
  11. clicking here
  13. 650 credit score

As you can see, I got only one exact-match anchored link but I did get three that contain some version of the phrase.

Results of the Experiment

On Oct 6 – 53 days after I 'launched' the site – the site popped up at #4 in Google for '650 credit score'. It also ranks pretty high for a lot of related terms. It has steadily climbed from where I first saw it (in the 80s) without any major jumps. It's moved a few positions at a time, for the most part. I found it interesting that the site seemed to drop a few positions each time I acquired a new link, and would then come back stronger than ever after a few days. As of today, the site ranks #2 (it's been moving up and down between #2 and #4). Here's the ranking analysis from the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool:

As would be expected, my domain is by far the weakest in the top six, in fact it's the weakest in the top 20. The site only has 13 links and they are from good sites that aren't exceptionally strong.

Probable Conclusions

  • It's possible to positively influence rankings using significantly few exact match anchored links if they are from highly relevant pages on relevant sites.
  • It remains possible to rank for fairly difficult phrases quickly with a brand new domain.

Things I Wish I Had Done Differently

  • I wish I had NOT used the main keyword in any of the links. Now I'm interested in designing a similar case study that doesn't use any exact-match anchored links. My thought process in using one was that this site doesn't have the necessary swag to get some on its own but now I'm wondering where the site would be ranked without that link.
  • I wish that I had not made the YouTube video. I made it mostly because I wanted to see where the video would rank on its own since I know that I could push traffic from the video to the site. But, it's impossible to measure whether the video is affecting the case study and I wish it wasn't there. I considered deleting it, but wanted to leave it there in the spirit of TAGFEE. It was created and I wanted to disclose that.

The Future Of the Case Study

Right now the case study is in a holding pattern. It's still moving up even though it hasn't had any new links since mid-September (that I'm aware of). It might get to #1 on its own but it might not. If it doesn't move up in the next month or so, I'll get a few more links that aren't anchored with keywords. I'm also interested in expanding the site into a more valuable resource, one that can better stand the test of time. To be honest I'm not sure exactly what the searcher who searches for this phrase wants, so I'm going to have to figure that out. If you have ideas that can help me turn this site into a better resource, I'd love to hear them. You and I both know that it needs help.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Strip Down to Strengthen Your Brand: Indentifying the Inessential

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Strip Down to Strengthen Your Brand: Indentifying the Inessential was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Monopoly is doing something crazy. The iconic tokens are up for public vote through February 5 and the classic piece with the fewest votes will be replaced by the shiny new one with the most votes.

Monopoly is the most popular board game in the world. If even this market leader is comfortable shaking up its product for the sake of promotion and an infusion of community energy, it makes sense to ask yourself:

What is the core of my brand and what part of my product or service can and should be in a continual state of iteration?

monopoly tokens

Which classic game token is going to jail? Monopoly is putting it up for vote.

Did you know that the silver-colored lineup that comes with Monopoly today isn’t the original set? There was once a lantern, cannon and rocking horse included in game play. So while there are some pieces most of us would shudder to imagine in the doghouse, the tokens aren’t the keys to our nostalgic association with the game.

It can feel like you’re taking a major risk when you consider removing parts of your business in order to strengthen the core of your brand. But studying your business and product to identify what is inessential and wherein lies the true value is an exercise that will only strengthen your brand.

Heinz Ketchup Debranded

Heinz Ketchup Debranded

The UK department store Selfridges recently experimented with debranding, removing all identifying marks from product packaging except the minimal amount needed to be recognized. Consumers find relief in the refreshing packaging that dials down the noise of marketing.

Can your brand afford to get naked? Will people still love your product or service when it’s exposed for what it is at its core or does it depend on the fancy dress and presentation of marketing?

If your brand isn’t strong at its core, it’s time to exercise its strengths. Identify what it is that sets it apart. Rather than trying to be better in areas where it’s weak, aim to make it the best in the area that it’s strong. Everything else is weighing it down. Better to strip off the excess that waters down the value.

A brand underneath the branding is what people fall in love with. With marketing you can dress up a product or service to meet each audience. You can experiment with style and get attention with avant-garde presentation. But you can only afford to do that when the brand’s core identity is true.

Bruce Clay Blog

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