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Beanstalk's Internet Marketing Blog

At Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization we know that knowledge is power. That's the reason we started this Internet marketing blog back in 2005. We know that the better informed our visitors are, the better the decisions they will make for their websites and their online businesses. We hope you enjoy your stay and find the news, tips and ideas contained within this blog useful.


June 29, 2008

A Beginners Guide To Link Building

Link building is an essential ingredient in ranking your website highly on the major search engines. There, now that we’ve got that brilliant grasp of the obvious out of the way let’s move on to what you can do to actually create them. Before we launch into the nitty-gritty of link building, no beginners guide would be complete without a brief explanation as to why links are important and the different elements of them. Being a beginners guide this won’t be an entirely complete list but it will be enough to get you going on the right path. Understanding what you’re trying to do will help you do it better and more importantly, understanding the “why” of the situation will help you stretch your tactics outside of this and other articles on link building.

Why Are Links Important?

To put it simply: a link is a vote. Every link pointing to your site from another website tells the search engines that the other site finds your resource valuable and thus, the engines read this as a vote for your site. So it must be about getting tons of links and you’re done right? Wrong. This is incorrect as …

Not All Votes Are Created Equal

Unlike your own vote in an election, some votes are worth more than others and some votes are worth SIGNIFICANTLY more than yours (unless of course you’re a content writer for the Google.com domain in which case you obviously have the top vote). The basic factors that affect a link’s value to your website are:

The site strength – the strength of the site that is pointing to yours is a significant (and historically abused) factor in the valuation of links. In the absence of other easily-visible criteria let’s look at PageRank as a key valuation of a site’s strength. If a site with a PageRank 8 links to your site, this vote is worth significantly more than a link from a PageRank 3 site. This is because a PageRank 8 site is, in Google’s eyes, a more important site than the PageRank 3 site.

Relevance - the relevance of a site linking to you is, if anything, more important than a site’s strength. If you run a bed a breakfast in Utah a link from a PageRank 3 bed and breakfast will be worth more than a link from a PageRank 5 web design site. This area is a bit grey in that it relies on the engine’s ability to determine what is relevant and what is not however we’ve seen evidence that this area is strong at this stage in the game and is only becoming more important over time.

Anchor text - the actual text used to link to your site is extremely important. I’ve seen extremely strong sites get beaten out by weak ones simply due to the poor use of anchor test. If you’re building links to your site be sure to include your keywords in the text that links back and, if possible, the exact phrase you are trying to rank for. At the same time, you can’t make all your anchor text exactly the same – how can that possibly look natural?

Position – the position of a link on a page and the number of other links on that page impacts the value of a link. A link in the footer of a page is given less weight than a link near the top, a link in the content of a page is given more weight than a link in a list of links and a link on a page with 50 other links is given less weight than a link on a page with only a few other links. If we think about it – this makes sense. All of these things indicate whether the site with the outbound links actually intends for one of their visitors to click the link or not. From an engine’s perspective – the more it appears that a site wants a link to be clicked on, the higher the weight that link (or vote) is given.

Admittedly there are a number of other factors but this is a beginners guide. Following the considerations above will insure that as you make each link decision – you’re odds of making the right choices will be significantly higher than if you ignore them. Ignoring them may not get you penalized or banned but it will make your task far more time consuming as you secure less valuable links and thus need to build far more than following he right methods.

So far we’ve covered briefly the why of link building, now let’s get into the real-life, here’s-how-to-do-it side of things. Below I’m going to cover three of my favorite link building tactics. These are tactics that apply to virtually every scenario. The number of ways to build links is only limited by your imagination however and this should not be viewed as a comprehensive list. This is, after all, a beginners guide and I’m trying to list the tactics that apply to virtually every scenario.

Side Note: Reciprocal Link Building

I’m not going to count this as one of my favorite and so it won’t count as one of the three noted above and I’ll only touch on it briefly. There have been a number of assertions that reciprocal link building is dead. This is simply not the case. I have seen and competed against sites that were very successful with reciprocal links as their primary link source.

The problem with reciprocal links isn’t so much in their value which does seem to be a bit lower than non-reciprocal links however often more easily attained. No, my problem with reciprocal links is in the management. Unethical webmasters’ removing links after you’ve put the link up to them, sites expiring and not being renewed, sites getting penalties of their own due to their bad tactics are all inconveniences the reciprocal link manager must deal with.

As an SEO company, a huge issue we faced was leaving our clients with this task after a campaign was over if they decided not to go on a maintenance package. Non-reciprocal links may be a bit harder to attain in some cases however that issue is much easier to overcome than the sum of all these issues.

And now on to the top three …

Articles

If you’re paying attention as you read this you’ll probably have guessed that I’m a fan of article writing as a link building method. If you look to the “about the author” section you’ll notice a link to the Beanstalk site (and if you don’t, well … let me know as somebody’s stealing it without permission). While I genuinely enjoy writing and sharing my experiences with others – the purpose of getting the article distributed is primarily as a link building tactic, secondarily as a great source of qualified traffic and thirdly for my own enjoyment.

You are an expert in your field. Who knows more about your business than you? So share. Writing an article may not be easy but it is rewarding. If you can’t think of a topic, think of what you get asked. If you’re asked common questions repeatedly then chances are, it’s a good topic for an article. I often get asked about link building, and you’re reading the result.

Once the article is completed you need to get it syndicated. Using an article submission service is a simple way to get your article out to a large number of publishers quickly. On top of this you’d do well to seek out specific sites in your field using one or all of the major search engines to find highly relevant sites that accept articles and submit to them.

And oh, don’t forget an “about the author” section. :)

Directory Submissions

Directory submissions are likely the most painful of the link building tactics you’ll employ. Why? Because it’s tedious and time-consuming work.

To be done right directory submissions must be done manually, the titles and descriptions must be tailored to the specifications of the directory in question and often, you’ll have to decide if a review fee is worth it.

While there are a good many directories that accept free submissions there are also a large number that’s require a review fee. The fee can range from a few dollars to a few hundred. If you see that a directory has a low PageRank, is general in it’s nature (i.e. it isn’t about your specific field) then it likely isn’t worth more than a couple dollars if that. If the site is strong, and strongly related to your site then it’s obviously worth more.

There is no hard-and-fast set of rules for how much a listing is worth. I’d recommend to start your hunt for directories (don’t forget the topic and/or region specific ones), submit to all the free ones and make a list of all the ones that require a fee. After you’ve gotten a solid number in you “needs to be paid list” you can get a general idea as to what’s out there and what you can get and for how much. This will enable you to make solid choices knowing what all your options are.

Forum Posting

I just know I’m going to get a couple comments and/or emails for listing this as a link building tactic but if it’s done right there’s nothing wrong with it. Forum and blog posting got a bad reputation as a link building tactic when it came under huge abuse by unethical webmasters spamming forums with useless garbage just for a link. They even went so far (and still do) as sending out spiders to automatically submit posts. To this end, I have to agree that it’s a bad tactic however …

If you’re seeking out forums related to your site, reading the threads and responding with solid advice or with questions and not just firing off some sales-pitch then you’re doing what you’re supposed to be. Another perk to this is that, like articles, if you do this right you’re gong to see traffic as well and what more can you ask from a link building tactic than traffic as well as links.

Conclusion

Above we’ve covered the basics of link building. As I’ve noted repeatedly, once you’re done reading this and applying some of what you’ve read you’d do well to read other articles, forums and blogs. This isn’t a complete breakdown of everything link-related (that would be a full book) but it will keep you out of trouble and save you countless hours of wasted time getting poor links that haven’t held value since 2003.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:02 pm


 

 

June 27, 2008

Two New SEO Articles

Two new SEO articles came out of Beanstalk today.

The first article, titled “>1 Is the Lonliest Number” doesn’t so much cover SEO as is intended to help Internet Marketing providers to survive the current economic climate. In a time when competition for dollars is at a high, insuring that you attain and maintain clients is critically importance. This articles outlines how we’re surviving it and notes some common trends in companies that aren’t.

The second article is more SEO focused. The article, titled “A Beginners Guide To Link Building” is just that. In it we explain why link building is important (from the search engine’s perspective) as well as covering different aspects of links that are factors and a few of the more important link building methods. A good read for those just getting their feet wet in SEO and link building.

We hope you enjoy.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:36 pm

Categories:Uncategorized

 

 

June 18, 2008

Firefox 3 Sets Records, and Breaks Extensions

Early estimates for Firefox 3 adoption which started yesterday June 18th, 2008 show that between 8.3 and 11.07 million copies were download in the first 24 hours. Mozilla claimed its servers gave out about 83 terabytes of data in the 24-hour period, with one mirror sending data at speeds of 20 Gbps.

However for most geeks these numbers mean nothing – all they care about is, “Will my current Firefox extensions work?”, and the answer seems to be maybe. So here is a list of my extensions that work, and those that don’t (with a few left out that do work). Originally there were even more non-functioning extensions but several have been updated and are now in the working category.

Working: ColorZilla 1.9, fireform 0.6.3, FireFTP 0.99, IE Tab 1.5.20080310, IE View 1.3.7, SearchStatus 1.25, User Agent Switcher 0.6.11, Web Developer 1.1.6, and Zend Studio Toolbar 2.1

Non-Working: del.icio.us 1.2, Firebug 1.05 (1.2 beta 3 does work, but its only a beta), Google Global 1.0.2, and infoRSS 1.1.3

Total Working: 11 (2 Unmentioned ones work)
Total Non-Working: 4

As for new features Firefox 3 is a real gem. First its way better at memory management and overall speed / responsiveness. Secondly, now you can now drag and drop images from websites to your desktop (saved in original format). Thirdly, when your typing stuff in your address bar the auto population data now has Page Titles making it easier to find those obscure websites you visited. Naturally there are a lot more updates then this but these ones are just cool and I don’t have time to dig through massive release notes.

If your interested in monitoring the Firefox 3.0 browser usage check out this page.

You can download Firefox 3 here.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:42 pm

Categories:Uncategorized

 

 

May 16, 2008

Come On Google …

There’s been a lot of shuffling around in the SERPs on Google over the past few days as many of you have undoubtedly noticed. I got my first wind of it 2 days ago from a client who dropped from #4 for his primary phrase to #5 (then to #6 – then back up to #5). Others have witnessed larger moves and this update seems to coincide with a recalculation of PageRank (visible) for many sites.

The Beanstalk site felt the affect starting yesterday when I first noticed that we dropped from our #1 spot for “seo services” to #2. Of course as an SEO I just had to spend a large part of the evening trying to get to the bottom of it and unfortunately I did. On the down side, I don’t like the update (and not just because of where we ended up) but in large part due to what I found. The page that took over the #1 spot was www.bitwiselogic.com/website-optimization-services.aspx (I’m sure you can appreciate that I’m not going to hyperlink that URL. ;)

We’ve always tried to follow the best practices of link building using ethical methods. It’s generally slower but it kept us in the #1 spot for well over a year. So what had changed?

When I looked into the keyword densities I found that the BitWise site had abnormally low densities for the targeted keywords (hovering at around 1%). So we know it isn’t keyword density. Their internal linking was good, I’d go for higher densities but this revealed that what it was coming down to was links. So where are their links coming from? (I asked myself in hopes of some great revelation of a new and superior link acquisition tactic)

A counter. Ugh.

BitWise had managed to get a counter that linked back to them put on thousands of sites. No anchor text – just an image link with an alt tag, likely (though not necessarily) established through either building blogspot templates that included the counter or “sponsoring” one.

And so I have to say to my friends at Google, there was once a time when we would jockey for #1 with WeBuildPages. Jim Boykin and crew are talented SEO’s and link builders and I could feel OK with being #2 (though of course, worked hard to take back the #1 spot when we slipped to them). But this? Somehow being beaten by a hit counter just doesn’t feel right. Something is wrong with this update.

So What Changed?

Now, while I don’t love the effect, the cause shed great light on the current update. It is obvious that Google is giving weight to sheer link numbers. There were definitely some good links in the BitWise mix including a couple .edu sites but overall the quality of the links was low so it’s pretty clear that they’re winning by sheer volume. The new algorithm favors volume.

So What To Do?

What are we doing about it? Very little. Knowing that Google can and will occasionally weigh volume more highly is a good reminder that for ourselves and our clients we need to take this into account when we’re doing our link building however an algorithm like this can’t hold. It’s too susceptible to sp@mming and thus, it must be readjusted.

So if you too have watched your site fall to a competitor that appears to have poor backlinks I would recommend to take our lead, build links – that’s always a good policy – but don’t panic (as hard as that may be – trust me I know). There will be another update. If we were to follow the lead of the site that jumped to #1 we’d build thousands of low-quality links overnight and drop our keyword densities down to 1%. And where would we be a few weeks from now?

SEO news blog post by @ 12:44 am

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May 6, 2008

Speaking At SMX Advanced

I will be heading to Seattle to speak at the 2008 SMX Advanced. This will be the closest to home I’ve had to opportunity to speak at an official SEO event. It would be nice if the organizers who decide to host one of of our home town of Victoria, BC, Canada but for some reason I find that unlikely. :)

I’ll be speaking to SEO’s and SEO company owners of how we can position our firms to best ride out the recession and economic downturn. It’s an important subject for all of us I’m happy to share some of the efforts we’ll be turning to and tactics we’ll be using to help insure that we safely navigate and grow through this turbulent time.

For those of you not familiar with SMX Advanced I would highly recommend attending. I was there simply as an attendee last year and it’s worth every dollar. You can find out more about the even on the official website at http://searchmarketingexpo.com/advanced/.

I hope to see you there and would invite you to hunt me down and say hi if you get a chance though as this event – there will be lots to do and only two days to do it in.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:27 am

Categories:Uncategorized

 

 

April 24, 2008

Jason Gambert Trademarking SEO As “A Process Not A Service”

This morning I had brought to my attention (by Daryl Quenet, Beanstalk’s Director Of Optimization Services) a trademark application for – of all things – the term “SEO”. Jason Gambert has filed for the trademark. After his initial applications were declined he’s managed to wear down the fine folks at the trademark office and it’s passed the initial stages.

As part of the application Jason has referred to SEO as a process not a service. He claims to want to establish standards and anyone who doesn’t meet those standards cannot use the term SEO to refer to them. And who will dictate these standards? Why none other than Jason Gambert himself. Why do I have a hunch there will be a paid review fee to insure that your processes (not services) meet his “stringent” requirements (of course, this is just a guess).

Now one thing that REALLY irks me (well – one among many) can be encompassed by the question, “Who is Jason Gambert?” Before this issue arose I’d never heard of him, a number of other SEO community members had never heard of him so I have to ask, who the heck (the word I’ll use in a blog post and save more colorful terms for later) is he to appear out of nowhere and claim to know the standards we should all live up to? While the term SEO is so obviously a generic one that my main objection is that he shouldn’t be able to trademark it in the first place, my next opposition would be that Jason Gambert himself is not in a position of authority in the industry to set standards at all.

While I’d still object is it was Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan or the like – at least I’d be able to sleep knowing that the standards themselves would be legitimate ones. But Jason Gambert? I don’t think I’m going to try to build my business processes around tactics from some guy I don’t know and have never heard of.

But I digress. This is a HUGE issue. If you’re at all involved in the SEO or Internet communities you NEED to file a complaint.

Sarah Bird, legal counsel for SEOmoz was the first to file a formal complaint. You can read theirs at http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?qs=91183449. You can also read an awesome summary of the issue, the history, etc. on the SEOmoz site here. It was a huge pleasure to have Sarah on the show to discuss this important issue. Now the work is up to you …

To file your opposition to this act (and you certainly should) you can do so on the Trademark Office site at http://estta.uspto.gov/filing-type.jsp. If you need more time you can also simply file for an extension that will give you 30 days to complete the process.

It important that you do one of the two today at it’s the last day to file.

On a slightly different note. Should this not work and should Jason Gambert actually get the trademark we’re going to have to ready ourselves for battle. it’s going to be important that the SEO community (I CAN still use that term for now) rallies together in defense of any companies charged by Jason. Beanstalk will commit to a $1000 donation to the first company taken to court in the event that Gambert actually get the right to do so to help cover the legal fees. I’d challenge other major SEO companies to do the same. We’ll need to make it so expensive to fight these ridiculous battles against anyone involved that it’s not worth it.

Now go get filing.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:35 pm

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April 18, 2008

Google Benchmarking Tool

Sometimes it takes a few days before I can test new features the engines offer. Such is the case with Google’s new benchmarking tool. I got my notification of it’s launch back on the 9th but unfortunately it was last night before I could actually do anything about it (darn those “pesky” clients for keep us so busy here :) Then – when I went to look into what other’s thought of it I discovered that there are those out there (likely the same ones who use Google Analytics as their primary analytics tool) who’ve know about it for about a month.

So there we go, that’ll teach me for using ClickTracks and relying on notifications from Google about new products. :)

Once I finally had a chance to login, let Google use my anonymous stats, and peek at the benchmarking data I have to say that while the date they are accessing is still VERY limited – you can definitely tell how powerful this information will be when more website data is included.

Basically what they’re doing is allowing users to specify their industries, share their data anonymously with Google who will gather together people from the same industry, combine their data and present it to you as the benchmark average for your industry. VERY kewl.

I was going to put up some screenshots and then I thought, gee – do I really want my competitors coming to my blog and peeking on my traffic stats? Heck, it took enough thought just to decide to check that box that allowed Google to share my stats in a non-individualized way. :) So instead I’ll send you to Andy Beal’s blog where he shares some if you’d like a peek.

OR

You could just login to your Google Analytics account and see it for yourself. It’s definitely worth the time – or at least, when more people start sharing, it will be.

SEO news blog post by @ 6:32 pm

Categories:Uncategorized

 

 

April 17, 2008

Google Returns To “Normal”

In today’s episode of Webcology on WebmasterRadio.fm Jim Hedger and I discusses a couple recent events at Google. Namely the release of their Q1 earnings (SURPRISE – they’re up over last quarter) and Yahoo! using Google’s paid ads instead of their own. Rather than re-hash “old news” (OK – it was earlier today but you can listen to it all by downloading the podcast here) I’m going to cover a new issues – Google’s latest update.

Recently there’s been much news about a massive shift on Google named the “Dewey Update“. The update itself caused much chaos as SEO’s around the world reported huge swings in rankings. The forums have been abuzz and the update, unlike most, took place over weeks with some sites changing positions wildly 3 and even 4 times in a day. The update appeared to have settled late last week with only minor tremors affecting the rankings in what one might conclude to be a new way of adjusting rankings on Google’s end – a more fluid approach to rankings.

Tonight however there’s been another significant shift however there’s a pretty major difference – this one is much more in tune with the updates prior to Dewey which took place on an almost weekly basis,usually starting on Thursday or Friday evening.

A major difference between what we’re seeing now and what we saw with Dewey in that the effects and changes appear far more logical whew one can look at the results across numerous sites. The changes seem to take into account adjustments made to the sites and increases in backlinks rather than massive adjustments to the ranking system affecting what can only be described as almost random factors (I’m sure they weren’t actually random however it was impossible to get a lock on what was being tested with the changes occurring too often for any proper analysis).

Obviously as an SEO I’m very happy to see this return to stability and as a searcher I appreciate that what I see today is likely going to be similar to what I will see tomorrow. Helps instill in me faith that the results I’m being presented with are actually relevant. Or maybe I prefer it as it reduces the frantic calls from clients asking why they dropped positions from where they were 2 hours earlier and my only reply being, “well – check it again in a couple hours”. ;)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:38 pm

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April 10, 2008

Conversion Optimization Article

Step Nine of our 10-step series on SEO is out today. Step nine covers conversion optimization and was written by Rock Tobin, Director of Research at Enquiro Research. Rick is responsible for a lot of the great work and studies that have come out of Enquiro and is regarded as an authority on conversion optimization and study.

Rick will also be joining us on WebmasterRadio.fm at 2PM EST today along with Enquiro CEO Gord Hotchkiss to discuss the article and conversion optimization in general. Be sure to tune in or download the podcast off the Webcology show page.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:33 pm

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April 3, 2008

Statistics Analysis

Well it took a heck of a long night and too little sleep but today’s article on statistics analysis came out today in combination with our weekly radio show on Webmaster Radio. The article covers the basics of what you should use to gather and analyze your stats and what you should be looking for. It’s a great leader to next week’s show and article. The article will be written by Rick Tobin from Enquiro and will focus on conversion optimization though we’ll also be touching on stats and the unique insight their Eyetracker data can provide.

This article is recommended as great information for those unfamiliar with their statistics and what to look for and ang a good refresher for those who have a solid grasp of their stats but could use a reminder of what they should be looking for or that they should be looking for something outside of the visitor counts.

You can read the article (only about 2300 words) on the beanstalk site here.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:46 pm

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