Press Releases & Link Building

I recently wrote a post for the YOUmoz section of SEOmoz which detailed some findings from a quick survey I did.

The survey detailed what companies are spending on press release distribution services and 20 SEO’s from various UK agencies answered the survey. You can read the full post here – Are You Wasting Budget With Online Press Release Distribution?

The spend results were as follows:

press release distribution

As you can see, companies are spending a huge amount with online press distribution services, but the worrying trend was that this was their main link building strategy!!

I went on to test a press release service to see what kind of link value it might hold:

press release results

As you can see the results from a link building point of view were poor, out of 299, less than 15 were indexed in Google. As an isolated link building strategy this is seriously flawed.

Press releases can be useful as part of a wider strategy and if you use press releases or are planning to use them you should go read the post on SEOmoz, you can give it a thumbs up whilst you’re there 🙂

Factors of a Natural Link Profile – It’s More Important Than Ever

Technically SEO could never be classed as natural, you’re undertaking activities to game the engines, whether you’re a spammer or a link bait specialist we’re all trying to achieve the same things, higher rankings and more traffic.

That said whatever activity you choose to undertake, you absolutely have to make it look natural, I don’t know why so many people struggle with this concept but with the recent changes and updates it’s more important than ever to come across as ‘genuine’.

So we’ve established SEO isn’t natural but we have to make it look like it is, how do we do it?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work on all types of sites, corporate giants to brand new start ups, no matter what type of site you work on the results always last longer when you make things natural.

Lets go a through a few things that make up the natural mix;

Anchor Text

Good old anchor text! Not sure if you’ve all noticed recently but Google has been tightening it’s filters, sites with a lack of brand, variation and image vs text have been getting hit. With this in mind it’s more important than ever to build your anchor text using all of these elements;

Keyword Variation

If you’re trying to rank for a particular term don’t focus all your anchor text on the exact term, you will get filtered out eventually. I find the best way to pick anchor text variations is by using Google Suggest and the Keyword Tool;

google suggest long tail variation

google keyword tool suggestions

Use multiple terms regularly to keep on the right side of Google, it will also help you rank for more long tail variations. In terms of getting the right mix its difficult to say, I personally like to use no more than 30% exact, unless there is a good reason to be more aggressive, a peak season etc…

Brand Anchor Text

I blogged about this last year and quite a few people rubbished it, however I am sure most have seen positive results from building brand into their profile.

Again not sure what the exact mix is but if your anchor text profile is less than 30% brand orientated then I’d say it’s something you need to look at.

It’s not a case of doing this alone and you get high rankings, however if you are stuck in position 5 – 10 and just can’t break into that top 3 pack, then maybe this is something you need to look at.

Location of Links

I am seeing more and more link profile issues relating to the location of  links. If your site is based in the UK, you only ever do business in the UK and all your links are from the US then do you really think that is going to go unnoticed forever?

Blekko is pretty good for understanding the location split of your links.

blekko suggestions

Site Wide vs In Content

Again another obvious one, site wide links have been associated with link buying for a long time and towards the end of last year they were hit pretty hard. My advice would be to only use them when relevant and try and keep it brand based. In content links are so much more natural, think about it, when do people link? A brand new site would obviously create lots of new links, a new piece of content, however an established site would rarely keep updating exteranl links on a page, if all you do is acquire links on static pages your strategy is seriously flawed, stick with getting fresh links on new pages.

The idea of a ‘freshness’ boost has been talked about for years but it works, I would take a fresh page on a decent domain over a PR9 link any day.

Authority Spread of Incoming Links

Again I have written about this in the past and as far as I can tell it still plays a major factor in establishing how natural the link profile of a website is;

blekkosuggestions

You can use open site explorer to get the data and here’s a guide to pulling it into excel.

If all your links come from domains with an authority less than 20, the chances are you’re doing low quality publishing on article directories only and other low quality blogs. If all your links are from domains above 50 you’re probably spending a fortune on high PR links on authority sites. Even if all your links are in the middle somewhere you’re probably buying from a link broker.

What you should be trying to achieve is a very even spread of domain authority with links from every source possible, this to me would more likely be a natural profile.

Types of Links

This depends on the type of site you run, however I find it best to cover all bases. However be smart about it, if you run a 3 page site selling training services, you’re hardly going to be linked to by lots of fresh articles on blogs, however lots of business directories might be conceivable. If you run a blog then of course you should acquire more fresh links and social mentions.

However no matter what site you’re running I would always recommend a good mix, directories, press hubs, blogs, social sites and forums. Mix it up as much as possible.

Justified Links

If you have a site that never updates then your link velocity is going to be low, maybe a few partners and industry relevant websites every month but anything more than that is just going to look too unnatural. If you’re constantly increasing the content and pages on your site then you’re naturally going to warrant a higher link velocity.

Do things on page to justify the amount of links coming back to your site.

Natural Link Patterns

I think one of the worst link strategies you can adopt is ‘quality and relevance only’, why?

Think about it, if all the links your site ever acquires are those on high authority static pages, relevant to your industry and have to have a certain amount of links to them, does this really look natural? Would a link profile growing like this ever look natural?

Let me share a good example for you;

I got a link a couple of weeks ago from a post on SEOmoz blog, great link, super relevant and even had a good anchor text 🙂 Happy days? Well ye, however a link on SEOmoz was not all I got, in 48 hours the my post that the link was pointing at got 210 track backs, 210!!! These were from all kinds of sources, scraper sites, news hubs, blogs re writing and publishing.

I think Google has to take this kind of link activity into account, one quality link and hundreds of crap ones within 24 hours? Do I get penalised? Is this unnatural? No and no. So why aren’t SEO’s taking this into account when running link building campaigns? Yes get quality links but don’t just leave it there.

I’m sure there are many other linking factors to consider when trying to establish a natural link profile, however these, for me at least, seem to be the most prominent. Please feel free to discuss anymore in the comments.

Google Updates Becoming More Frequent & Links Are Counting Sooner Rather Than Later?

After all the shouting last year about the state of the SERP’s it seems, as predicted, Google have started this year with a bang, updates and fluctuations in the SERP’s are becoming much more frequent and maintaining top rankings for any sustained period is becoming more difficult.

I personally track around 25 competitive terms and the top 20 sites that rank for them, when I couple this with the data we hold at Branded3 it shows quite clearly how often Google are making changes to these terms.

Rank Fluctuations

If you look closely it is almost a weekly occurrence, apart from the odd website that controls position 1, those that rank in positions 2 – 10 are switching around weekly.

Now Google could be simply cleaning up a lot of the profiles they failed to take care of at the end of last year, however my feelings are that Google is finding an counting links a lot quicker than it ever has, that combined with caffeine is causing these massive fluctuations.

My only reservation is that we saw these kind of fluctuations last summer, Google was making a massive update and when it was finished the SERP’s became a little more stable. If this kind of ‘Google Craziness’ is here to stay it can only be good thing for SEO’s and clients as seeing the benefit of links should come around a lot quicker.

Faster Results?

If you speak to SEO’s in general they will tell you that you need to wait 3 months to fully appreciate the effects of link building and solid on page recommendations. Recently I have been noticing changes coming about a lot quicker, Google reacting to fresh links in a matter of weeks, not months.

Now I am not going to be bold enough to say anyone paying for SEO should see results in 2 weeks, because I don’t believe that, however once link building has commenced, generally speaking you should be seeing results a lot quicker. Of course if you already rank in the 10 gaining the top position is still going to be a drawn out process, this is simply down to the amount of competition on the first page of Google, however generally speaking, every link you build should make it’s mark a lot faster than it would have done 12 months ago.

The Truth About Buying Text Links

I am going to discuss something that is usually seen as a big no no when it comes to SEO and have to point out at this point that what I discuss in this article is my own perspective and opinion, it is not the opinion of Branded3 or any of their associates.

Paid links is one of those really annoying subjects and my thoughts today are based on last week’s SEOmoz whiteboard Friday where Rand discusses how they purchased links, got higher rankings and then quickly took them down before Google came along and wiped them out!! Rand also reefer’s to another website that was band for buying a handful of links to rank better.

Now I hope by making this statement Google doesn’t come along and wipe my blog out but I think it’s important that people understand and know the truth;

Do High Ranking Websites Buy Links? Yes!

Do they only buy a couple to beef up their campaign? Depends…

Do paid links work? Yes!

Should I buy links? Depends….

Ok you’re no clearer than you were before right, let me have another go….

Over the last 6 years I have worked with all kinds of companies, brands and blogs all competing in different verticals, some massively competitive others not so.

Out of all those clients I have to say I have only ever come across a few that don’t actively engage in link buying, were not just talking about 1 or 2 links here were talking hundreds, if not thousands.

You get out your best link analysis tool and check out some of the link profiles of some of the biggest brands, see anything suspicious?? I am sure you will.

Ranking on top of Google is big business, people don’t want to take chances with their income therefore due to competition are forced into paying for links! It’s really that simple – competitive markets require companies to buy links to dominate and anyone that says anything else is plain lying.

Should I Buy Some Links

Well let’s start with the obvious questions ‘will I get banned by Google?’ and the truth is “I do not know”! The reason I don’t is because I have never seen a site get thrown out of the index for ‘buying’ links. I have seen sites penalised for spamming, linking to dodgy neighbourhoods, hiding content etc… But never seen anyone penalised for buying links.

I have seen websites that sell links suffer from a loss of PageRank (not lost rankings just the ability to pass PageRank) but have never seen a link buyer punished.

So the answer to will I get punished? Probably not, however, as always there are a few exceptions.

– If you go max out your text link ads account, you may raise question marks

– If you get some guy from digital point to buy you a thousand links for $50 this also might not be a good idea

– If you spam everyone in the UK with ‘I want to buy a link’ – not such a good idea

– If you buy thousands of links from irrelevant resources there is a good chance you’ll get slapped

– and if you hang around on digital point looking for sellers your putting your website at risk

All of the above are really stupid ways to go about link building/buying whatever….

How Do I Buy Links?

I am not going to go into specifics here as I don’t want to paint a target on my head. All I will say is if a link looks like it is bought then it will be penalised whether money passed hands or not, a natural looking link is never going to cause any issues.

The main issue with link buying comes with the acquisition technique, if your careless you may be punished.

I think Google generally deals with paid links by docking PR or preventing sites that sell links from passing as much.

Your competitors will be buying links and you’re not going to compete with them using viral content and article marketing, will they ever get found out? Who knows, but the truth is it doesn’t stop multi million pound organisations from doing it.

Keyword Difficulty Made Easy

Testing keyword difficulty has never been a straight forward task, what do you test with? Links in? Links to domain? Search Volume? Awords Competition?

The truth is that all of them contribute toward the ‘keyword difficulty’ factor.

This is another post when I am going to sing the praises of the SEOmoz crewe, since they stopped delivering SEO services I have noticed a huge investment in their tools, mostly in making linkscape data more reliable but also tweaking the current tool box.

A tool that was announced this week was the new keyword difficulty tool, it breaks down all the metrics for you, so if your an SEO professional there is no better visualisation tool for client proposals, in my opinion.

Just check out some of the features:-

Adwords Data

Not only does the tool give you a difficulty factor in the form of a percentage (the higher it is the harder it is to rank) but it also gives you the relevant Adwords search including broad and exact match.

keyword difficulty tool

This is all the information you really need when trying to determine the potential of target keywords however, it doesn’t stop there.

Page / Domain Authority Metrics

The tool nicely shows the page and domain authority of the top ten sites, letting you see exactly what you’re up against.

page and domain authority

Page authority is the SEO metric for the overall authority of any given page on the web based on link juice and authority, domain authority is based on the entire links to the domain as a whole.

Break Down Of Links

As we should know now, all links are not equal and we need to be aware of how many links our competition have, also how much authority those links are passing.

On top of that we now know that the amount of links to a domain is almost as strong a determining factor as the amount of links to a particular page.

links to domains

As we can see the tool nicely breaks down the link data showing how many unique domains are linking to each of the top ten results.

Now if you’re not an SEO or internet marketer your probably not going to pay for the tool, however if you are an SEO professional, in my opinion the tools are the best on the market.

This particular tool can be used for more than just helping clients visualise their competition within their niche, it can also be used for mass research on the SERPS for multiple keywords.

Google Shows Search Results Not Searched For???!!

OK I’m going to let you know early on that this is a little bit of a rant. Sorry 🙂

You see SEO changes all the time, something that worked 6 months ago rarely works now, link building methods consistently have to be changed in order to maximise your campaign.

I love SEO just because of that, it is forever changing and there is no such thing as boredom, however Google have over stepped the mark, and the reason I am upset is because it effects me.

Long term readers will know I have been targeting the keywords ‘search engine optimisation’ for around 6 months, so link building efforts have obviously been incorporating this keyword.

So what has Google gone and done??

Well, try searching for the keyword ‘search engine optimisation’ on the .co.uk domain; this is what you will get?

optimisation results

Showing results for ‘search engine optimization’???? Do I want to search for ‘search engine optimisation’???

Seriously, I am searching in the UK, in the UK we use ‘s’ instead of ‘z’ – organisation, recognise etc….

I fully understand why Google might think I mean ‘optimization’ but instead of hitting me with the ‘Did you mean’ sign, instead it shows a set of search results I never searched for or wanted!! Crazy.

So where does this leave me in terms of decisions, If I keep targeting ‘search engine optimisation’ people who search it are not going to be given the results that are relevant, so do I switch my optimisation methods to rank for a key phrase Google says I should be searching on??

Does Google even care that there are 33,000 searches a month in the UK for the key phrase ‘search engine optimisation’, are all these people wrongly hitting the ‘s’ instead of ‘z’ Google???

The other option I have is to hope this switches back and shows results based on the keyword that was input, but will Google ever realise optimisation came before optimization?? I’m not convinced.

I think I am going to simply add optimization to my title tag.

I love SEO, I love the fact that it is a constantly changing landscape but this is ridiculous.

Sorry for the rant, but thought some of you might find it of interest.

New Year, New Challenges, New Goals, New Design!!

OK lets address the first issue, SEO wizz grew up! Yes I was up until 4 am this morning with David from Quixotic Media cleaning up the last few bits of the design. I know many of my readers use the thesis theme and if you want a top notch design for a reasonable fee you should head on over there and see what they can do for you.

The new design is all part of my strategy for 2010, 2009 has been a good building year for SEO wizz but it is now time to take things to the next level and make a challenge on the SEO big shots in the UK and anywhere else for that matter. I think the design incorporates commercial and social interests quite nicely and will be perfect for the marketing push I plan on rolling out in 2010.

So I guess now is as good a time as any to take a peek at what 2010 may have in store for us and how we should be approaching our online strategy.

Nothing Changes

Throughout all the years I have been working in the SEO industry the basics never really change;

1) Create a quality resource, product or piece of content

2) Ensure Google can access the site and deal with any broken link issues

3) Keep you site architecture as flat as possible, linking to your most important pages from the home page

4) Keywords need to be in all the major areas title tags, body, images and I would still utilise the h1 and 2 as good practice

5) Generate links through content distribution, link partnerships, viral content and blog entries

6) Do it over and over again until you win 🙂

These are the bones of SEO, sure there are a number of technicalities hidden within each area but don’t be led astray by the ‘just write great content crowd’ – you need links and you need to emphasise the relevance your site has to key phrases.

Define What You Really Want To Accomplish

This is particularly a problem for bloggers, I have lost count of the amount of people that have emailed saying “I am blogging about making money online and need loads of traffic, how do I get it?”.

First off I think how original, secondly I think well what is your business plan??? To publish low quality or regurgitated content and hope the links and traffic are going to come flooding in??

You need to be smarter than that if your plan is to build a business out of your site.

It’s not just bloggers though, how many derelict ecommerce sites are there out there floating about?? Tons!

So if the online business world is for you then I would start by asking myself the following questions;

How much do I want to make?

If you answer is ‘as much as possible’ then stop. You need a target, a goal, something to aim at or else the chances are you will fall apart in the first year when you’re barely making $10 a month with adsesne.

Set a goal of income, a reasonable amount, then if you make more you have over achieved.

How are you going to make it?

It is no good thinking content will win all, I’ll paste ads everywhere and be a ‘click’ millionaire!! Time for a reality check.

Search traffic takes time to build and social traffic will not click your ads or buy your affiliate products, it’s a fact unfortunately.

So decide what products you are going to promote, how you’re going to build an opt in list, are you going to promote services? If you’re going to use affiliate links don’t just simply paste them on, sell them in a few articles beforehand.

One word of warning on affiliate products, do not sell them if you haven’t used them and found them to be of good quality. Your readers will never forgive you for selling a scam.

Test the product, illustrate how you benefited from it, and show the results… your conversion rates will be far higher.

How are you going to get traffic?

Erm SEO??

Yes you are going to continually optimise your pages; however you may have a product to sell right away, why wait?

You could use banner advertising on relevant blogs, google adwords or even free ads, depending on the nature of your product.

Don’t sit back and wait for pure search engine traffic, go out and get it if you believe you have a product that converts.

Are you going to use social media?

This is a tough one for purely commercial sites, will it really do them any good? My opinion is no, unless they have something to offer the social scene, which in my opinion they should.

Social media is not going to drive home sales or even give you tons of links, however what it does is give you an ideal opportunity for users, clients and industry experts to interact with your brand. It allows you to answer concerns quickly and sell the benefits of your service or product easily.

Social traffic will not turn into sales, but if your brand is out there, this means there is a good chance your company will get mentioned within context and this could lead to a word of mouth referrals.

Many of you may think I am anti social media, I am not as you can clearly tell from some of the widgets on this site, I simply believe in using social time sparingly. Many webmasters indulge in the hope it will lead them to riches, this is not the case, social media is exactly what it implies, the opportunity for you to socialise with others in your industry and with those who share similar interests.

No Investment, No Reward

Something that I learned quickly all those years ago is that if you’re not willing to invest you have lost already. The investment doesn’t have to be huge but you have to be willing to take it.

So many webmasters don’t want to pay for a nice design, for tools that cost more than a dollar or for recurring membership fees; some even think it is a waste of time paying hosting and for a domain. Granted there are scammers out there that will sell you big piles of rubbish, this is one of the online learning curves I try and prevent people from feeling when I write this blog, it can be really harsh.

My advice here is to find a reliable resource, and then use reliable resources that the initial resource recommends. Also don’t just buy, look for reviews before hand and any reviews that simply sell the product are probably scams. It’s a tough world but you have to be willing to push through it to succeed.

Plan your budget before hand, how much can you spend per month on;

1) Hosting and domain name
2) Advertising
3) Link Building
4) Design and functionality

Once you have this sorted the only other investment is your time. Don’t try and cut corners, software cannot write you a viral piece of content. Put your all in this is your business now and the rewards are real.

Believe You Can

If you are thinking “I’ll give this online thing a try” you’re going to lose.

If you are thinking “If I can make some money free, then I’ll invest” you’re going to lose.

If you are thinking “I’ll just build it and they will come” you’re going to lose.

If you actually believe in your business model and are willing to invest your time, money and talents into making your online dream a reality then you will more than likely win, even if not at first your attitude will drive you there.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have had sites that have flopped and I have felt like jacking it all in, but every time I learned something new, I developed a new skill set and still am learning and developing monthly if not weekly. You have to be willing to keep betting on yourself, that’s the difference between those who do and those who don’t.

Making a living from your online business is not guaranteed however the possibility is a reality, in 2010 bset a goal to take your site to the next level, double your investment whether that investment be your time or your hard earned money.

Keep reading SEOwizz and have a fantastic new years eve.

All the best to everyone for 2010!!! See you at the top of Google!!

p.s. Sorry for the post length I got carried away.

Find Niche Keywords That Pay

One of the most fundamental aspects of SEO is being able to pick keywords that are going to give you a return on investment. Niche keywords are those with a high search volume but low competition, you can rank for these very quickly, however first you have to be sure that you are going to make a return.

Before we get into the meat of this post I want to clarify that the techniques I am going to discuss are no secret and many internet marketers use them to find niche keywords, I obviously add my own tweaks to the process as experience tells me certain figures and measurements work better.

Also let me make it clear this process is far too time consuming for optimising posts and other deep pages, this research is to use when you start a new site based around a niche topic for the sole purpose of converting the traffic.

There are two things I want to make clear in this post;

A – How to find niche keywords

B – How you can tell if a particular keyword is going to be profitable

First thing I need to stress is that if you’re thinking about targeting the ‘make money online’ sphere, forget it. I consider myself an accomplished SEO and would not even consider starting down that path for two reasons; 1) competition is fierce 2) even though I could beat them 🙂 I think my energy is spent better elsewhere and so is yours

Some Guiding Principles

We have already established that niche keywords are those with traffic but little competition, however how on earth do we know if they will be profitable. The truth is you never actually do however there are a few things we can do to narrow down the process.

First of all any niche keywords need to be “buying keywords”, keywords that searches input in order to buy a particular product to buy. Whether you are monetising with adsense, affiliate links or actual products this principle is fundamental, if the visitor hasn’t come by way of a buying keyword they are not going to click or purchase.

So it makes sense to me, to start our search for niche keywords on sites like Ebay or the mighty Amazon, here you will find hundreds of products to target, scroll through some and then let’s move to the next step.

Using The Google Keyword Tool

Yes it’s my favourite, the good old Google Keyword Tool and we are going to use it to work out which keywords are going to give us a good profit.

Here’s a quick example on the keyword ‘bracelets’, I don’t target this niche nor do I intend to, this is simply an example.

find niche keywords

There are a couple of things you will notice from the picture and I want you to set up your keyword list in the same way.

1) Change the Match Type to Exact – This shows the amount of searches for the exact keyword on Google

2) Lose every column except the CPC price and the monthly global search

3) Order your list by the largest to the smallest search volume

4) Once this is in order download the keywords using the .csv (for excel) link

You should have a list of keywords that looks like this (You can order the columns as you wish)

niche keywords

Now what we need to do is estimate the income column.

Estimating Keyword Income

I must warn you at this point, we need to make a number of guesses and use a little math to figure out how much ranking for a particular keyword could be worth.

The only way we can work out potential income is by taking the Cost per Click into account and presume were trying to make money from adsense on our sites, this is not accurate but in my experience it is the ‘most’ accurate way to understand keyword potential.

So to do the Maths we do the following;

1) Multiply the Estimated Avg CPC by .25 – We are presuming that Google pays around 25% of the cost per click to the adsense publisher

2) Then multiply this amount by the monthly search volume

Now even if we get a no.1 ranking we are not going to take all the traffic and my experience you will only see about 35% of the traffic figure, so….

3) We multiply the amount by .35

4) Finally we multiply the running figure by .04 (This is presuming we can generate a 4% click through rate and most adsense optimised sites will exceed this percentage)

On your spreadsheet the sum will look like this;

profitable keywords

Once we tap enter it will give us a monthly income figure for the first line like so;

niche profits

That’s right people a number one ranking for the keywords bracelets could be worth about £4782.40 in adsense income or $7651.84. If you doubt that much money can be actually made ask yourself first, have you ever had a number 1 ranking in Google? For a product related keyword??

Of course the figures are not pin point accurate but I believe they give you a great idea about how profitable a niche is, this is how internet and affiliate marketers make money

Now of course you might not want to spend the next two years of your life attempting to rank for bracelets, however there are lots more keywords to go at with less competition.

niche keywords

Just look at some of the other keywords you could pursue and be ranking for in the next 6 months given the right SEO strategy.

I have not competitively analysed these keywords so I do not know what kind of competition they have, if you like the look of these keywords you will have to check out the top five on Google, below I’ll give you some guiding principles

Understanding the Competition

This is the main part people tend to get mixed up.

If you want to target a heavy niche then forget this part and just be prepared to work at it for a few years for a big return.

If you want to target lots of small niches do the following;

1) Search the chosen keyword on Google

2) Check the PageRank of the top 5 sites if any are a PageRank 4 or above move on, unless they do not use the ‘exact keyword’ in the title tag

3) Check the link popularity using yahoo links count (download the SEObook plugin SEO for Firefox) Any pages with ‘page’ link popularity of over 1000 then move on, unless the keyword is not in the title tag

What we are aiming to do here is target niches that we can rank for very quickly and start earning within 4 months, hopefully ranking in the top 5 after 6 months SEO work.

So there you have it!!!!

If you want to create a profitable niche you must first make sure the keywords are capable of pulling in the money.

Disclaimer – I have to say at this point that the above is not accurate and click value may differ depending on multiple factors, this is a system I and many other internet marketers recommend

I can’t finish this post without giving credit to the internet marketers that I know use this system.

Court and Mark at the Keyword Academy teach pretty much the same methods for locating profitable niches, they have a membership site which goes into a ton more detail, so if you are interested in this form of SEO you should check it out.

The methods I use, even though are very similar to others, differ slightly, as you do this more and more you will find out what works and what doesn’t. It can be a painful process but you make fewer mistakes the more you do it.

This is not a ‘make money online’ site

I am mindful that this sort of posts ventures into the ‘online money’ realm, I am mindful that I want SEO wizz to remain an SEO blog, however there is no getting away from the fact SEO is closely related with generating an income online. The make money arena is not for everyone, still even if you own a different sort of site this is great method of checking the potential of the keywords you are targeting.

Anyway hope everyone got something from it.

Google LSI – Is Latent Semantic Indexing A Bit Of A Myth?

For those of you who aren’t aware LSI stands for ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’, many marketers jumped on this bandwagon not so long ago claiming Google were using it to identify the meaning of words.

I am not going to go into the maths of LSI but will try and give a brief explanation.

Semantics involves assessing the meaning of words and not just the spelling of it. It does this by highlighting and recording word relationships linking up millions of words.

For example; Plane – Jet (Two different words that often mean the same thing) Car – Automobile? I am sure you get the idea.

‘Latent’ means buried, implicit, hidden or not explicit.

LSI is about finding the real meaning of words, finding which words relate and then indexing a large amount of documents by relevance.

Soccer -> Relates to Football (in the UK)

Wing -> Relates to Bird or Plane

LSI takes care of all this and indexes appropriately.

The three main components of LSI are;

Singular v Plural

– car / cars
– place / places
– baseball / baseballs

Changes in Tense

– grow, growing and grown

– playing – play – played

– work – works – working

Same meaning different spelling

Pupil – Student

Buy – Purchase

create – make

I think you’re getting the idea, LSI is awesome!!! But are Google using it???

Let me start by saying that Google have not patented anything relating to LSI, but I am not going to write extensively on this as it is, well, boring. The point is the fact that it supposedly exists in the Google algorithm is a bit of a mystery.

If you want to find out more about LSI or how it works I suggest you watch the video at Stompernet. It explains the background to LSI in a lot more detail and how the technology works.

I am an SEO so all I want to know is does LSI figure in the ranking algorithm? If it doesn’t I don’t care regardless of how great it is;

The only way to find out for sure is to test it.

The Test

Let’s take a look at this table of results;

Google LSI

As you can see from the chart all the keywords mean either the same thing or something very similar, however there are massive difference in the results.

I’ll leave it to you but do you really think Google understands the meaning of words like a human does??

Just to clarify the above graph shows the difference in the total search results returned and when pages in the top 5 matched between the keywords.

What Is Google Actually Doing?

If I knew that I would be a very rich man, however the other extreme to LSI is simple word recognition, the site with the most keyword mentions wins? We know this isn’t how it works from my post early last week about on page optimisation issues.

It used to be enough to create a site with the same keyword pasted throughout multiple pages however in the modern world of search diversity is key. You need to build a domain that is relevant to a niche and not a keyword, use variations, use Google’s keyword tool to understand what other keywords are used with your main phrase.

It is clear from my home page that I target certain keywords, however I don’t consistently use them in every page title, I use multiple variations and the same goes for my anchor text.

I use a range of keywords in the anchor text;

– search engine optimisation
– google seo
– google search engine optimisation
– seo
– seo techniques
– seo tutorials
– Search engine marketing
– Internet marketing

etc….

They don’t all ‘mean’ the same thing but a person searching SEO is no doubt looking for tutorials, advice or services of some sort; they are all keywords a particular type of searcher will use.

So when were thinking about what keywords to use in the content on our site we should be thinking in terms of search links, think about how Google target their adwords, not just on the keyword entered but on the search trends of the user. Using search trends it is easy to see how Google can spot an unnatural site.

What I really want you to get from this post

There are hundreds of search theories out there, stuff that the ‘SEO Guru’s’ discuss and say ‘may’ be a ranking factor, people then jump on the bandwagon and before you know it we have a new (100% fabricated) ranking algorithm. The truth is ranking on Google is about being smart with keyword selection and implementation. If you have a site about super cars and you use the keyword “super cars” there is a good chance you will rank for it, you will not rank for “fast cars” if you never use the keyword on the basis they mean pretty much the same, it’s a myth.

If you want to rank you use your main keyword in the title tag, you create content using different ‘search’ variations, you build links to all your content using varied anchor text, that’s it, read the theories if they interest you but don’t ‘read’ too much into them.

You may also want to read Google Semantics, An argument for LSI and Another LSI Myth Buster, all are great reading.

I have a busy week a head posting this so posting might be a struggle. I have also a large queue of emails in my inbox and I will try and get back to everyone as soon as possible. Please don’t stop emailing me with questions as I enjoy helping out and that is what this blog is all about, learning how to really do SEO.

Why Is SEO Always Free?

I guess it is the way of cyber space, everything must be free otherwise it’s not worth bothering with.

It is a fact that there is a lot of information online and more specifically a lot of quality information; however does that mean you can find everything you need to know about SEO free?

Well actually, yes. Everything you need to know about SEO is free, you can read this blog and numerous others all offering good, however slightly different SEO advice.

Implementing SEO? This does cost, in one way or another, whether you’re a blogger, online entrepreneur or internet marketer, you will find yourself in a position where you have to invest in your online interests.

There are those who become involved in blogging and social media for kicks, but I’ll continue with this post with “making money” in mind, whether that be through a business, a blog or any other venture that requires search engine traffic.

Let me run by three different scenarios and if you’re trying to build a successful website you will probably fall into one of these;

All scenarios are based on those trying to make money from their websites

Scenario One – Quality Resource Approach

You have a website and decided to go down the “quality resource wins all” route. You spend money on web design and pretty graphics, you dive into twitter, stumble and digg in order to raise interest in your brand and product. The traffic comes in slowly, if your product is excellent it will eventually pay dividends. If you are a blogger going down this route you may submit pages to social sites regularly, guest blog and maybe even pay for a little advertising. If you are a good writer or have a hot product you will no doubt see a lot of traffic, if your writing skills aren’t up to scratch or your product is outdated then you may as well not exist.

Even those with a great product or excellent writing skills can still find themselves a year or so later with little or no traffic.

Scenario Two – It’s all a matter of time

There are those that believe in the power of search engine optimisation and decide to use it to promote their pages. They find the right keywords and optimise their pages, they slowly build quality unique content, submit to the odd article directory and make multiple blog comments, even on no follow blogs in the hope of a quality backlink.

Now if the niche targeted is not competitive the people in this bucket may see a little success, however if they are targeting competitive phrases they will always be lagging behind those who are willing to invest.

Scenario Three – I will stand on top of Google

Finally there are those who believe driving search engine traffic to their pages is the make or break of their business model and go all out to lead the pack. They believe in the power of SEO so much that they are willing to invest in this belief. They will pay for link analysis software, rank tracking, keyword research, article and press release submissions and link building. All groups are willing to invest time but this group are willing to make a real monetary investment in their belief that they can dominate Google.

In my opinion these are the ones who win in competitive niches, the ones you see dominating Google.

In every scenario nothing is free, unless you class your time and energy as a free commodity.

The difference between those who do and those don’t is simple. Those who do, believe in their venture to such a degree that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

I know there are those who say “all you need is a free wordpress blog and you can make a ton of cash” this is so untrue on many levels;

– You need the right niche
– You need an effective marketing plan
– You need to know SEO (at least the basics)
– YOU NEED TO INVEST

I remember Darren Rowse at problogger commenting on how he used pay per click in the early days of his blog to drive traffic and many many more have done the same, including the famous John Chow. They are where they are because they have made an investment that goes beyond their time.

I’m Not Selling Anything

I am not leading up to some big sell, don’t worry. I am simply trying to convey the reality of being successful online, there is no one that gets where they want to be without paying for it in one way or another and in my opinion it requires more than your time.

What do I need to carry out successful SEO?

If you are targeting a competitive niche and you really want to sit with the big boys you need to do as they do.

I am not going to recommend any particular products, not yet anyway but am going to try and point you in the right direction.

Link Analysis

In my opinion anyone serious about SEO needs to invest in quality link analysis. Yes I know there are free ones out there but none I have tried have given me what I need to carry out a successful link campaign. I need to know the PageRank of the page the links are coming from, the title tag, whether or not the links are followed, what they are anchored with etc….

Hosting

Now you can have a successful SEO campaign on a free hosted blog, however I have an issue with this and that is you are creating something that you never actually own. When you register a domain and host it you are building something that you own the rights to, so investing in a domain and hosting is a must.

Backlinks

You need backlinks to rank, plain and simple. Now I am going to be very careful talking about investment and backlinks in the same sentence as I don’t want to stir up any trouble for myself, but the truth is there isn’t a site sitting at the top of Google that has not invested in some sort of link building strategy or software.

I am not talking about spamming here, that is a big NO NO, I am not even talking about buying links (even though many of the top sites do) I am talking about networks that will help you generate natural editorial links.

Article Marketer – This system publishes your articles to thousands of directories that all help to generate backlinks to your site. I use and have used it many times, however I have moved on and found a better way of creating links. Still use it in the early days of your sites to get on the grid, but I now recommend using it for no more than 6 months.

My Article Network – This works in a very similar way to article marketer except the sites are anonymous and the links are in the actual article not the author box. If I were to publish articles anywhere it would be here.

Backlink Solutions – Simple network where you write posts that are distributed throughout a blog network. There are many networks like this, it works similar to articles, content for a link. My only issue with this system is that a lot of the blogs in the network are not 100% indexed and therefore some of the links drop off the grid.

Linkvana – This again is a blog network system, the difference in my opinion to backlink solutions is that the blogs where the content is submitted to are of far greater quality. All content on the blogs is 100% unique and therefore indexed, a lot of the blogs in the network are PR5 and even I noticed a PR6 link just a few weeks ago. If you really want to invest this system is a must have.

Now I didn’t link back to these tools as I didn’t want anyone to think I was simply trying to sell them products, all these work and are not cheap. Obviously like any product the more you pay the better the results, if you decide not to use tools such as the ones mentioned then you will be left behind by those that do.

By all means create a quality site, that is what the internet is all about, but promote your site at the same time. If your blog/website is worth enough for you to invest hours and hours every week then surely a small money investment is not too much to ask.

As I say whether you take my advice or not that is up to you, the ones that do – I’ll see you at the top of Mount Google 🙂

People SEO advice is FREE, but implementing SEO is not FREE and the results you get will ultimately depend on the price you’ve paid.

The Threefold Mission of Search Engine Optimisation

A question that is often debated is “What is SEO?”, many think it’s about creating keyword optimised pages, others think it’s about creating Google friendly site architecture, you have those who think it’s all about quality content and those who think it’s all about links.

Whilst all of the above are valuable SEO techniques, none of them describe SEO in a broad sense.

So what is it? Is it ranking higher on Google? Is it simply driving organic traffic to your pages? Well in my opinion SEO or search engine optimisation (or even optimization for those of you over the pond) is so much more than this; SEO in my mind is quite simply the most powerful marketing tool you could ever want.

In this post I am going to try and explain what I mean, I am going to go through what I think is the threefold mission of SEO, (by the way that’s just a term I made up 🙂 )

seo explained

As you can see from the above image I believe the 3 main areas of SEO marketing are core market ranking, brand promotion and long tail optimisation, all are needed in a successful SEO campaign but let’s break this down a little.

Brand Promotion

How do we promote our brand through SEO?

Well it’s simple really, as your site grows more people will become aware of your services/product and if your good at what you do your brand may be passed by word of mouth, how valuable do you think it would be for someone to say “simply search [you brand] on Google and they’ll pop up”?

Let me show you something before we go any further;
seo wizz

As you can see last month there were 160 clicks on my site from keywords including my brand, now I know the figure isn’t huge but as the brand grows so will the traffic.

Think about it, it’s not just word of mouth business, say a visitor somehow drops on one of your pages, reads and likes it but forgets to bookmark it or subscribe, they come online the next day and fancy reading your content again, how are they going to find you? Probably by typing your brand into Google.

Ranking for your brand is something you need to implement immediately and it is so easy. If you have a solid link profile the chances are you already rank, however its good practice to try and get your brand name in your title tag.

If your site is new it is best to start by creating some social media profiles using your brand name, these will rank quickly and help channel traffic searching for your brand to your actual site.

Long Tail Optimisation

OK I know I have banged on about this enough so I will keep it short.

Long tail optimisation is optimising your deep content for low competition keyword variations, it’s a slow way of building traffic but one that will pay huge dividends.

Read my post here on long tail optimisation.

Once you have mastered this optimisation technique you will be able to grow your organic traffic with every new bit of content you add to your site.

Long tail traffic will not convert as well as precision targeted traffic but with a little keyword research before each new post or article and over time you will see a profitable return.

Core Market Ranking

At the start of any SEO campaign we do our keyword research and we identify our core market, or the keywords with the most amount of traffic and profitability.

These keywords are going to be the hardest to rank for and it may take you up to a year or even two years before ranking for your most competitive term.

This is very much a long term aspect of your search engine strategy but when you land this one it can take your business from minor profitability to huge profitability.

Your homepage will usually be targeted at these keywords and this is where the majority of your link building will be focused, I’d say as much as 80% of your link building efforts need to be aimed at landing these terms. The long tail and branding is not about links as long as the content is there the rest will take care of itself, the power keywords on the other hand require huge link building efforts and your aim should be the top 5 if not the number 1.

Conclusion

So why is it important to implement a full SEO strategy?

If you only concentrate on your core market it will take you years to see results and you will probably give up, if you only concentrate on branding and long tail optimisation your simply missing out on huge earning potential.

You need to incorporate all these strategies to create a successful campaign and this in my opinion is what SEO is, using Google as a platform for marketing your business on multiple levels.

How To Analyse Link Growth Effectively

If you are actively attempting to optimise your website you will no doubt be monitoring your growth. Google rank, organic traffic and indexed content is something we should definitely be looking at, however there is another important aspect and that is the growth of our link profile.

There is a fundamental problem with trying to monitor your link growth, firstly there is no tool that can list 100% of your links (Don’t worry Google knows about all your links but chooses not to show them), the second problem is knowing how many of those links contribute to your page authority.

What I want to do in this post is go through some of the ways we can check our link growth, how we should monitor it and which statistics to use.

Right lets jump straight into it:

Google

OK the obvious place to look for links is on Google,

Simply type in link:yourdomain and it will show pages that link to your domain;

links on google

As you can see from above this is the snap shot from SEOwizz.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, only 11 linking pages????

and here lies the problem;

The Problem

Google only shows a tiny percentage of the links to your site and in actual fact my count using this method fluctuates between 11 – 72. The reason for this I do not know.

Before anyone thinks Google is discounting links because of low quality or something, first know this.

I have links from over 50 PR4 pages including sites like SEOmoz, I also have links from a few PR5 and 6 pages, none of these show when I perform a link search on Google.

This is not the way you should be tracking links in my opinion and frankly means nothing in terms of keyword rankings.

I have consistently ranked on the first page for “google seo” and “seo techniques” despite massive fluctuations with the link count on this search.

Google Webmaster Tools

OK you can open up a webmaster tools account and submit and verify your site, once this is done Google will show you how many links are pointing to your pages, but again this is only a portion of the pages:

webmaster links

As you can see from the above pic, I have 2534 links pointing to the domain and 342 to the homepage, this is a more accurate figure in my opinion but again Google still only shows a partial amount of links, in my opinion Google only show the strongest links here.

The Problem

The main problem with the webmaster tools count is that it fluctuates so much, it is a good indicator of how many quality links you have pointing to a domain but it far from an ideal way of assessing popularity growth.

Yahoo Site Explorer

Now if you head on over to yahoo site explorer you will certainly get a better idea of where you are in link popularity terms.

yahoo links

Now there are some fluctuations on here and still even though it shows a lot more links it is not all of them, however this is the one I recommend on using when assessing raw link popularity, in fact any SEO tools I have ever used usually fall somewhere in between webmaster tools count and yahoo, usually closer to Yahoo.

The Problem

As I said yahoo is so much better for assessing raw popularity however it doesn’t give you any info about the quality and this is the hardest area to get around.

SEO Tools and How I Assess Link Growth

This is my advice and it is how I assess the link growth of all my clients, I will be mentioning certain tools in this section but they are not affiliate linked or even endorsed, I recommend them because they are the best.

Link Popularity

Already answered this one really, yahoo site explorer, this is how I asses link popularity growth but not how I assess how link quality is growing.

Tools

The SEOmoz Linkscape tool helps you to see how many quality links you have pointing to your page and how many route domains point to your page, you can actually get this information free by setting up an account, of course if you want in depth info you would need to go PRO, which in my opinion is only worth it if your site is making a real income for you or if your an SEO professional.

seomoz links

Some Things To Note

– SEOmoz only shows how many quality links point to you

– The tool performs a crawl of the web every 4 – 6 weeks so if you build links today you might to see them on SEOmoz for a couple of months.

As well as the SEOmoz tool you can also purchase SEO Elite, this allows you to see the PR of the page pointing to you and if the link is followed.

My advice is this use yahoo for link popularity and SEOmoz or Google webmaster tools count to assess how many quality links you have pointing to your page, but remember these only update every 2 months.

Why Don’t They Give Us It Straight?

The only way any tool could provide us with every single link pointing to our domain is if it could crawl the entire web and only Google possesses that kind of power. So why don’t they tell us about all our links??

Well the main excuse is competition, Google don’t want competitors to be able to discover everyone of your back links so they don’t make the information available. I guess you could then argue that they could provide it in the webmaster tools info, yes they could, why don’t they??? No idea other than maybe they don’t want to assist anyone to game the algorithm.

So when it comes to analysing link growth stick with yahoo for link popularity and SEOmoz/Webmaster Tools for link quality.

This post came from a question I was asked by Mike at HTS Tech Tips. If anyone has any questions feel free to forward them to me, I am happy to address any questions in emails and posts.

No Follow Confusion and PPC Perks

If you stay on top of SEO news you will be aware of recent comments made by Matt Cutts in relation to nofollow links, if not you can find the full details at searchengineland.

Nofollow is a popular link attribute used to prevent Google from following links on your site, the use of it can help your pages retain more pagerank therefore enhancing your rankings. You can read more on nofollow at “Getting to grips with nofollow”.

On top of the nofollow hammer there have also been suggestions that Google maybe following PPC campaign links within javaScript, something Google is getting more and more advanced at doing.

All this is enough to leave any SEO in confusion, if the two above points are correct it makes “chasing the algorithm” extremely difficult due the vague nature of link following and link iimportance.

I thought in todays post it would be a good idea to go through what these changes mean and what effect they could have on your SEO efforts.

No Follow

I think the best way to explain the possible nofollow change is by using a couple of diagrams.

Outgoing Links

Here we have 3 outgoing links all passing on x10 ‘link juice”, therefore the page has x30 PageRank to pass on to other pages.

nofollow diagram

Pretty straight forward.

Link 1 is now nofollow

If we were to nofollow the first link then links 2 and 3 would share out the link juice from link 1 respectively, as seen below.

nofollow link

As you can see the 2 remaining “follow” links pass on a little more link juice. You can see how sculpting your links using nofollow can help enhance PageRank and send the most link juice to our most important pages.

What Matt Cutts says

OK so Matt Cutts has told the online marketing world that a nofollow link has no effect on the amount of link juice other links from a page will pass. So using our above examples, if your page has x30 PageRank to give nofollowing 1 of the three links will not increase the link flow on the other 2, as so;

nofollow link

So link sculpting is dead right? Well I’m not sure, you see Google has neither clarified or confirmed the above information and I personally think it could be a little bit of scare tactic to put SEO’s off using the nofollow attribute.

It was only a week or two ago Matt was talking about PageRank Sculpting and admitted to the fact that it worked, albeit he did advise nofollow was not the best way to do it, but never denied it worked.

Does link sculpting using the nofollow still work? Who knows is the only answer and it leaves a certain amount of uncertainty when trying to focus our sites, Google should really clarify this.

Adwords Enhances Organic Results???

This is related to a story that came from searchenginewatch and showed a case study involving a clients account which was being ranked for anchor text used in their PPC campaigns.

Webmaster tools confirmed Google were picking up on the anchor text and a quick ranking check proved they were sitting pretty high for the term.

I personally think this may a little out and that even if Google is passing relevancy through PPC ads, it will be something they jump on quickly as it is against their own “paid links” policy.

The problem is, for anyone involved in SEO, how do we know what benefits our sites the most???

Can Google crawal script effectively?
Do all links pass relevancy? Even Ads?
Does nofollow still work?
Can we still use nofollow on paid links?

We know that Google is able to extract links from javascript but can they do it effectively, can they prevent paid “java” links from counting and how will they determine this.

All the above news fills the SEO industry with uncertainty and Google really should clarify the position, but as always it’s not forth coming. This is why it is important for SEO’s to do their own case studies to see what works and what does not, it creates more work but such is the life of an SEO.

Please let me know your thoughts on the debate.