Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Posted by RobOusbey

I’ve written before about running competitions for link building, but given the increasingly important role of Twitter in online marketing and SEO, it’s time to address a popular mechanic: Twitter competitions.
 
Historically, there were two particular reasons to run competitions through Twitter: firstly to increase the number of followers (and hence, the influence) of a Twitter account. The other important reason was usually branding: a competition that successfully ‘goes viral’ would introduce the brand and the website to huge numbers of new people.
 
However, now that social media data is used by search engines and appears to have some influence in their rankings, sites like Twitter are no longer just an adjunct to search marketing – but must be a part of SEO strategy.
 
Various posts abound with guidance for running a competition on the site, including from Mashable and Social Mouths. These focus mainly on the ‘older reasons’ for running a competition, but the workflow is still similar: define the prize, the start & end dates and – crucially – the entry mechanism.
 
The method of entering might be one of:
  • following a particular account
  • mentioning the account name in a tweet
  • using a particular hashtag in a tweet
  • retweeting a whole message
 
At the most basic level, if we’re actually going to get any SEO value from the competition, then we need the entrants to include a link to a particular page on the site, which leads us to:
 
Tip 1: People should link to the site from their tweet as a way of entering the competition.
 
Great, now we’re getting on Google’s radar with some social links to our site. You could implement this by giving people an exact tweet to copy and paste, but the requirements could be as simple as having to mention the company twitter account and a given URL in your tweet to be entered.
 
Links to the site are good, but if this competition is going to generate a real rankings bump for the linked page, then it makes sense to put this weight behind a real landing page. This could be done by tying the giveaway into a particular product or category from the site, then putting the promotion instructions on that product landing page, and making *that* the page that people should link to in their tweets.
 
Tip 2: A landing page from the site should also carry the competition information, and be the page that entrants link to.
 
After the competition has ended, this page will have the benefit of any weblinks / social links generated during the competition. (In addition, doing this keeps you white hat and above board – in contrast to the ‘bait and switch’ pulled by some sites who run a competition or publish link bait on a URL which is later 301ed to a commercial landing page – leaving lots of sites unwittingly linking to pages that they never intended to.)
 
You can see this tactic in use at the moment by Food Service Warehouse, they’re running a bar supplies competition, right there on the related category page.
 
Food Service Warehouse screenshot
 
 
On a related note: if you’re getting hundreds of people to link to a page for you, it’d be a shame not to take advantage of getting targetted anchor text as well. One way to do this is to make sure that the competition has a name that you’ll be happy with people using to link to it
 
In an old post about getting domain diversity and good anchor text, I made two recommendations that could be useful here: firstly give the competition a name that will benefit you when people link to the competion.
 
 
These giveaways from Nordstrom were branded differently – the second giveaway in the list received richer anchor text from links than the one show above.
 
A second suggestion – which is particularly relevant to running a promotion on Twitter – is to take advantage of using a short URL with keywords in it. For example, the competition above could have used http://bit.ly/bartending-set instead, to get some keyword rich links.
 
Tip 3: Get good anchor text by using a relevant name for the promotion, and using keyword-rich short URLs.
 
 
When it comes to promoting the sweepstake, the first people to reach out to are Twitter users that are interested in the type of prize that you’re giving away.
 
Tip 4: Search for relevant Twitter users, to tell them about the promotion.
 
You can search for people by interest on Twitter – type a phrase into search, then click on the ‘People’ tab. For example: people on Twitter with an interest in ‘home brewing’.
 
Alternatively, FollowerWonk is a third-party service that does a brilliant job of mining Twitter user data to find appropriate people to talk to.
 
 
NB: if you’re logged into FollowerWonk with the account you’re promoting, it’ll also tell you which of the listed users already follow you.
 
There are various resources that go into depth about doing outreach via Twitter. It’s unnecessary for me to cover that again now, suffice to say: please don’t be a spammer! You’re running these promotions to help your brand and SEO; this is no time to ruin the company’s reputation.
 
Beyond doing outreach to relevant Twitter users, it’s also appropriate to do regular link building, and traditional online outreach to appropriate webmasters / bloggers. This step shouldn’t be overlooked, as promoting a good giveaway should be easier and more effective than trying to get links to any kind of commercial content. Which leads us to:
 
Tip 5: Just because the sweepstake relies on Twitter as a mechanic, you can still do traditional link building.
 
The sweepstake niche also has a lot of dedicated directories and listing services that you can submit to. These might be good for SEO, but are usually excellent at sending large numbers of people who can enter the competition (and in the process, promote the Twitter account and create social links to the site.)
 
As well as the sites I listed on this post, sites like CompetitionHunter.com, SweepsAdvantage and Online-Sweepstakes are worth looking at. (The latter sent very healthy traffic to a competition we recently ran, when the giveaway was added to the site by a member.)
 
While all this is going on, you’ll be able to see entrants mentioning the company account name in the @replies tab or Twitter’s internal search. However, this information isn’t easy to parse and will disappear relatively soon. 
 
Tip 6: Monitor discussion of & entries to the giveaway while it’s in process, and record this data for use later on.
 
It’s worth using a service that will monitor and record all this on your behalf. Right now, Distilled is using Rowfeeder, and I’d definitely recommend it.
 
The service monitors Twitter for particular account names and hashtags, stores all those tweets for you, creates useful charts/graphs and (perhaps the simplest feature, but one that I really like) will dump all the information into a Google Docs spreadsheet for you, in real time.
 
Depending on how the promotion is run, this data might be useful while it’s in progress – e.g.: to track the viral spread around the country / the world (since RowFeeder stores user location if it’s available) – but it’s worth storing the data to process after the event. In fact, that should probably be a tip as well:
 
Tip 7: After the promotion, analyze the people who entered or mentioned it on Twitter; look for any relationships that could be nurtured.
 
An example here would be to look for the most prominent users that entered, or any entrants who are particularly influential in their niche. It would be worth sending them a message (via Twitter, email or otherwise) to properly introduce yourself, and try to foster a relationship with them.
 
 

I expect we’re about to see increased interest in Twitter competitions in the next few months (and the same could be said for Facebook promotions that are aimed at getting SEO benefit, though that’s another post) – I hope these tips help you stay ahead of the pack and make sure you get as much SEO-bang-for-your-buck as possible.

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Posted by RobOusbey

Whatever your site’s topic, whether you are very niche or broad, B2C or B2B, a retailer or a publisher – there are likely to be independent fan sites that overlap with the subjects on your site.

By fan site, I mean fan clubs, unofficial sites, etc – these types of sites are typically run by people who are very passionate about their particular topic. They often serve as a very rich source of information and news about their subject – and are often very keen to link to any appropriate information that gives value to their visitors.

I’ll give a quick introduction to identifying the niches to target and finding appropriate sites to talk to, and then give some tips about how you could get them to link to you.

Choose a Niche

SEOmoz members are a hugely diverse bunch, so I’ll give just a couple of examples to illustrate how this can work. In reality, this is where a bit of brainstorming and ‘thinking outside the box’ could help you identify some potentially useful types of company & website.

So, by way of examples (and I’m just looking out of my window here for ideas of companies, don’t read anything into this list):

  • An online store that sells second-hand books:
    • This type of retailer has it pretty easy: aim to find the fan sites of particular authors or series of books,
    • Don’t just go after the biggest names either – there are definitely some more ‘cult’ authors that aren’t as well know but have strong online followings.
  • The website of an auto mechanic:
    • Approach the fan sites of particular car models,
    • Aim to target fan sites on the subject of any particular repair expertise you have as well, such as classic cars or four wheel drives.
  • A chain of hotels:
    • This company could look towards the fan pages of the particular cities they have properties in,
    • They should also consider anything that makes a particular hotel unique; is it near a sports stadium, or in a particular style of architecture? 

You’ll find out soon enough that there are fan sites for almost every niche you could ever imagine. Don’t worry about getting a bit abstract in your thinking here.

Of course, some sites won’t have to look too far to find topics that have gained a fandom. For example: if you’re a radio station, then there may be fan sites for your station or for your presenters. If there can be a website explicitly for fans of Ikea in Ohio, then really – anything is possible.

Finding Fan Sites

Honestly, there’s only a little advice that I can give here, beyond ‘Google is your friend’.

Getting Links from Fan Pages

As with almost every proactive linkbuilding tactic – and with this kind of outreach in particular – we’ll have most success when we offer something to a site that earns us a link from them.

With that in mind, here’s my five favorite tactics for getting links from this type of site:
 
Events & Invitations
 
Look out for opportunities to organize or to be involved with special events. In the simplest form, use this as an opportunity to meet some of the enthusiasts that you’re trying to get to know; if you want to meet petrolheads, then go to an auto show. You could sponsor some kind of ‘social-media-meet-up’ or ‘bloggers drinks party’ at these sort of events if you want to put yourself out in front of the right people.
Some businesses have the opportunity to add value to some events; for example, when Stephanie Myers announced her plans to do a junket for fan sies (see May 17, 2010), any hotels, bars or restaurants in her area could have offered to host the event for her and some fans. This should have received at least a few really valuable links from the attendees’ write-ups.
 
Similarly, every TV station really should plan ahead by taking their list of forthcoming talk-show guests, and inviting members from every fan site of those guests to watch the recordings. It would be fair to ask them to write about it in return for the tickets, and they’d be encouraged to link to the show’s webpage from that article.
 
Sweepstakes & Giveaways
 
I’ve written before about link building by running competitions, but it’s worth mentioning again here. If you pick an appropriate prize, fan sites should be particularly keen to link to this kind of giveaway. Ideally, see if you can aim for some kind of money-can’t-buy’ prize.
 
For example: you’re running a night club, and Fatboy Slim is DJing one evening – so you get him to sign a turntable slip mat. You can then give them away via your website, and it’s a great chance to contact every fan site for Fatboy Slim, breakbeat music, etc.
 
Exploit Rivalry
 
In many cases, you might find there’s a whole bunch of fan sites for one particular topic; for example, there are more than a few Twilight Saga fan sites – and I imagine there’s some rivalry, particularly amongst the top dozen or so largest sites. Alternatively, you might use this tactic where a rivalry already exists, such as between college football teams – and by proxy, their individual fan sites.
 
You could create some kind of competitive feature, such as a survey or quiz that will rank the sites’ members against each other. For example: "Which Pac-10 Team has the most comitted fans?" or "Harry Potter Trivia: Which fan site’s members are the most knowledgeable?"
Create these features in a way that will encourage the sites to refer visitors to you by linking, and then make sure to let them all know about it.
 
Widgets
 
LocateTV have an awesome embeddable widget that can be customized to appeal to fan sites. (Eg: visit a show page and click ‘Add to my site’. You can see the embed in action on fan sites such as ElvisPresleyScrapbook.co.uk.) This high-quality type of widget can be used by savvy editors of fan pages, and gives a good quality link back to LocateTV.
 
Of course, an embed can be much simpler – even a simple image could do the trick, which could be updated as often as necessary. For example: an entertainment news website could create images such as "Latest Britney Spears News: Release date for new album announced" – and then invite every one of the celeb’s fan sites to embed the linked image, pointing to the category page for that person on the news site.
 
Feature Them
 
You might choose to engage with fan sites, perhaps to feature them in a list that you publish (e.g.: "The Top 10 Fan Sites of Renaissance Composers") or to interview that site in particular (eg: "Interview: Superbowl predictions with Larry from PackerChatters.com".)
 
LocateTV has done well to stay engaged with the fans of TV shows and TV actors in their fan site list features and interviews.
 
You could at least get the featured sites to mention you, but approached in the right way, this kind of content could be very linkworthy and social media friendly; for example, Education Portal’s "Top Shakespeare Blogs" post was well tweeted, by those in the list as well as other Shakespeare fans.

 


Remember: fan sites are pretty special, particularly since they tend to be keen to link to good quality content about their subject. Just don’t abuse it: they generally have savvy webmasters who can spot if they’re being taken advantage of.

When you start thinking about fan sites, you’ll realize quite quickly that there’s lots more opportunities that are specific to your site, beyond those I’ve outlined here.

It’s always fun to talk to people who are truly passionate about something (whether that happens to be Elgar or Ikea), so go ahead and enjoy putting some of these ideas into action.

 

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Posted by RobOusbey

Whatever your site’s topic, whether you are very niche or broad, B2C or B2B, a retailer or a publisher – there are likely to be independent fan sites that overlap with the subjects on your site.

By fan site, I mean fan clubs, unofficial sites, etc – these types of sites are typically run by people who are very passionate about their particular topic. They often serve as a very rich source of information and news about their subject – and are often very keen to link to any appropriate information that gives value to their visitors.

I’ll give a quick introduction to identifying the niches to target and finding appropriate sites to talk to, and then give some tips about how you could get them to link to you.

Choose a Niche

SEOmoz members are a hugely diverse bunch, so I’ll give just a couple of examples to illustrate how this can work. In reality, this is where a bit of brainstorming and ‘thinking outside the box’ could help you identify some potentially useful types of company & website.

So, by way of examples (and I’m just looking out of my window here for ideas of companies, don’t read anything into this list):

  • An online store that sells second-hand books:
    • This type of retailer has it pretty easy: aim to find the fan sites of particular authors or series of books,
    • Don’t just go after the biggest names either – there are definitely some more ‘cult’ authors that aren’t as well know but have strong online followings.
  • The website of an auto mechanic:
    • Approach the fan sites of particular car models,
    • Aim to target fan sites on the subject of any particular repair expertise you have as well, such as classic cars or four wheel drives.
  • A chain of hotels:
    • This company could look towards the fan pages of the particular cities they have properties in,
    • They should also consider anything that makes a particular hotel unique; is it near a sports stadium, or in a particular style of architecture? 

You’ll find out soon enough that there are fan sites for almost every niche you could ever imagine. Don’t worry about getting a bit abstract in your thinking here.

Of course, some sites won’t have to look too far to find topics that have gained a fandom. For example: if you’re a radio station, then there may be fan sites for your station or for your presenters. If there can be a website explicitly for fans of Ikea in Ohio, then really – anything is possible.

Finding Fan Sites

Honestly, there’s only a little advice that I can give here, beyond ‘Google is your friend’.

Getting Links from Fan Pages

As with almost every proactive linkbuilding tactic – and with this kind of outreach in particular – we’ll have most success when we offer something to a site that earns us a link from them.

With that in mind, here’s my five favorite tactics for getting links from this type of site:
 
Events & Invitations
 
Look out for opportunities to organize or to be involved with special events. In the simplest form, use this as an opportunity to meet some of the enthusiasts that you’re trying to get to know; if you want to meet petrolheads, then go to an auto show. You could sponsor some kind of ‘social-media-meet-up’ or ‘bloggers drinks party’ at these sort of events if you want to put yourself out in front of the right people.
Some businesses have the opportunity to add value to some events; for example, when Stephanie Myers announced her plans to do a junket for fan sies (see May 17, 2010), any hotels, bars or restaurants in her area could have offered to host the event for her and some fans. This should have received at least a few really valuable links from the attendees’ write-ups.
 
Similarly, every TV station really should plan ahead by taking their list of forthcoming talk-show guests, and inviting members from every fan site of those guests to watch the recordings. It would be fair to ask them to write about it in return for the tickets, and they’d be encouraged to link to the show’s webpage from that article.
 
Sweepstakes & Giveaways
 
I’ve written before about link building by running competitions, but it’s worth mentioning again here. If you pick an appropriate prize, fan sites should be particularly keen to link to this kind of giveaway. Ideally, see if you can aim for some kind of money-can’t-buy’ prize.
 
For example: you’re running a night club, and Fatboy Slim is DJing one evening – so you get him to sign a turntable slip mat. You can then give them away via your website, and it’s a great chance to contact every fan site for Fatboy Slim, breakbeat music, etc.
 
Exploit Rivalry
 
In many cases, you might find there’s a whole bunch of fan sites for one particular topic; for example, there are more than a few Twilight Saga fan sites – and I imagine there’s some rivalry, particularly amongst the top dozen or so largest sites. Alternatively, you might use this tactic where a rivalry already exists, such as between college football teams – and by proxy, their individual fan sites.
 
You could create some kind of competitive feature, such as a survey or quiz that will rank the sites’ members against each other. For example: "Which Pac-10 Team has the most comitted fans?" or "Harry Potter Trivia: Which fan site’s members are the most knowledgeable?"
Create these features in a way that will encourage the sites to refer visitors to you by linking, and then make sure to let them all know about it.
 
Widgets
 
LocateTV have an awesome embeddable widget that can be customized to appeal to fan sites. (Eg: visit a show page and click ‘Add to my site’. You can see the embed in action on fan sites such as ElvisPresleyScrapbook.co.uk.) This high-quality type of widget can be used by savvy editors of fan pages, and gives a good quality link back to LocateTV.
 
Of course, an embed can be much simpler – even a simple image could do the trick, which could be updated as often as necessary. For example: an entertainment news website could create images such as "Latest Britney Spears News: Release date for new album announced" – and then invite every one of the celeb’s fan sites to embed the linked image, pointing to the category page for that person on the news site.
 
Feature Them
 
You might choose to engage with fan sites, perhaps to feature them in a list that you publish (e.g.: "The Top 10 Fan Sites of Renaissance Composers") or to interview that site in particular (eg: "Interview: Superbowl predictions with Larry from PackerChatters.com".)
 
LocateTV has done well to stay engaged with the fans of TV shows and TV actors in their fan site list features and interviews.
 
You could at least get the featured sites to mention you, but approached in the right way, this kind of content could be very linkworthy and social media friendly; for example, Education Portal’s "Top Shakespeare Blogs" post was well tweeted, by those in the list as well as other Shakespeare fans.

 


Remember: fan sites are pretty special, particularly since they tend to be keen to link to good quality content about their subject. Just don’t abuse it: they generally have savvy webmasters who can spot if they’re being taken advantage of.

When you start thinking about fan sites, you’ll realize quite quickly that there’s lots more opportunities that are specific to your site, beyond those I’ve outlined here.

It’s always fun to talk to people who are truly passionate about something (whether that happens to be Elgar or Ikea), so go ahead and enjoy putting some of these ideas into action.

 

Do you like this post? Yes No

Posted by RobOusbey

This post begins with a particular dilemma that SEOs have often faced:

  • websites that use AJAX to load content into the page can be much quicker and provide a better user experience
  • BUT: these websites can be difficult (or impossible) for Google to crawl, and using AJAX can damage the site’s SEO.

Fortunately, Google has made a proposal for how webmasters can get the best of both worlds. I’ll provide links to Google documentation later in this post, but it boils down to to some relatively simple concepts.

Although Google made this proposal a year ago, I don’t feel that it’s attracted a great deal of attention – even though it ought to be particularly useful for SEOs. This post is targeted to people who’ve not explored Google’s AJAX crawling proposal yet – I’ll try to keep it short, and not too technical!

I’ll explain the concepts and show you a famous site where they’re already in action. I’ve also set up my own demo, which includes code that you can download and look at.

The Basics

Essentially, sites following this proposal are required to make two versions of their content available:

  1. Content for JS-enabled users, at an ‘AJAX style’ URL
  2. Content for the search engines, at a static ‘traditional’ URL – Google refers to this as an ‘HTML snapshot’

Historically, developers had made use of the ‘named anchor‘ part of URLs on AJAX-powered websites (this is the ‘hash’ symbol, #, and the text following it). For example, take a look at this demo  - clicking menu items changes named anchor and loads the content into the page on the fly. It’s great for users, but search engine spiders can’t deal with it.

Rather than using a hash, #, the new proposal requires using a hash and an exclamation point: #!

The #! combination has occasionally been called a ‘hashbang’ by people geekier than me; I like the sound of that term, so I’m going to stick with it.

Hashbang Wallop: The AJAX Crawling Protocol

As soon as you use the hashbang in a URL, Google will spot that you’re following their protocol, and interpret your URLs in a special way – they’ll take everything after the hashbang, and pass it to the site as a URL parameter instead. The name they use for the parameter is: _escaped_fragment_

Google will then rewrite the URL, and request content from that static page. To show what the rewritten URLs look like, here are some examples:

  • www.demo.com/#!seattle/hotels becomes www.demo.com/?_escaped_fragment=seattle/hotels
  • www.demo.com/users#!name=rob becomes www.demo.com/users?_escaped_fragment_=name=rob

As long as you can get the static page (the URL on the right in these examples) to display the same content that a user would see (at the left-hand URL), then it works just as planned.

Two Suggestions about Static URLs

For now, it seems that Google is returning static URLs in its index – this makes sense, since they don’t want to damage a non-JS user’s experience by sending them to a page that requires Javascript. For that reason, sites may want to add some Javascript that will detect JS-enabled users, and take the to the ‘enhanced’ AJAX version of the page they’ve landed on.

In addition, you probably don’t want your indexed URLs to show up in the SERPs with the ‘_escaped_fragment_’ parameter in them. This can easily be avoided by having your ‘static version’ pages at more attractive URLs, and using 301 redirects to guide the spiders from the _escaped_parameter_ version to the more attractive example.

E.G.: In my first example above, the site may choose to implement a 301 redirect from
www.demo.com?_escaped_fragment=seattle/hotels to www.demo.com/directory/seattle/hotels

 

A Live Example

Fortunately for us, there’s a great demonstration of this proposal already in place on a pretty big website: the new version of Twitter.

If you’re a Twitter user, logged-in, and have Javascript, you’ll be able to see my profile here:

However, Googlebot will recognize that as a URL in the new format, and will instead request this URL:

Sensibly, Twitter want to maintain backward compatibility (and not have their indexed URLs look like junk) so they 301 redirect that URL to:

(And if you’re a logged-in Twitter user, that last URL will actually redirect you back to the first one.)

 

Another Example, With Freely Downloadable Code

I’ve set up a demo of these practices in action, over at: www.gingerhost.com/ajax-demo

Feel free to have a play and see how that page behaves. If you’d like to see how it’s implemented from a ‘backend’ perspective, hit the download link on that page to grab the PHP code I used. (N.B.: I’m not a developer; if anyone spots any glaring errors, please feel free to let me know so I can correct them!)

 

More Examples, Further Reading

The Google Web Toolkit showcase adheres to this proposal; experimenting with removing the hasbang is left as an exercise for the reader.

The best place to being further reading on this topic is definitely Google’s own help pages. They give information about how sites should work to fit with this proposal, and have some interesting implementation advice, such as using server-side DOM manipulation to create the snapshot (though I think their focus on this ‘headless browser’ may well have put people off implementing this sooner.)

Google’s Webmaster Central blog has the official announcement of this, and John Mueller invited discussion in the WMC Forums.

Between Google’s blog, forum and help pages, you should find everything you need to turn your fancy AJAX sites into something that Google can love, as well as your users. Have fun!

 

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Posted by RobOusbey

Today, I want to share two pieces of advice that are particularly useful to certain types of business – and will be exceptionally quick to implement. I’ve also created a free download that might help some people implement one of these ideas even more quickly.

About two years ago, I made a recommendation to a client in the UK, and I’ve just seen it used by a hotel in the USA. If your business offers public computers with internet access – such as those in hotel lobbies, libraries, etc – this is for you:

Tip 1: Put up a sign, next to your public computers, with a call to action; typically this could be something like ‘Find us on Facebook’ or ‘Follow us on Twitter’.

Here’s such a poster in use, at the Ledgestone Hotel in Yakima. (Click the image to embiggen.)

Sadly, it doesn’t look like the Ledgestone is doing much with their Twitter account; this probably disappoints people who go to their page, and so they don’t end up with as many followers as they could do. Remember – getting people to your Twitter page (or Facebook, or whatever else you’re asking them to do) is only the first stage – there has to be something there for them when they arrive.

The second tip is more for people who offer wi-fi – this could be all manner of hotels, conference venues, airports, aeroplanes, train stations, coffee shops, etc. For places that offer free wi-fi, this can work even better:

Tip 2: You control the first page visitors see after logging on to your wi-fi. Don’t waste this with a dull message; make the page interesting, and put some calls to action on there.

People have probably logged on to do something – but many will welcome a distraction – particularly if you keep the request brief. Create a nicely styled, but simple page, and add a couple of message on there. Some examples could include:

  • Follow us on Twitter / Like us on Facebook: you could incentivize this, for example: if you’re a coffee shop, then offer a free latte to new followers
  • Sign up to our email newsletter: this will only take them a second if you make sure the form is right there on the page, and again this can be incentivized
  • Don’t forget to check in on foursquare: ideal for almost any location, and this is as good a time as any to remind them to check in
  • If you’re enjoying your stay, please review us: particularly useful for hotels, where online reviews can increase visibility; I’ll go into a little more detail about this below.

There can be some issues with sites noticing that a lot of people from the same IP are visiting, particularly when it comes to review services. Local search expert David Mihm advised me that he’s heard Yelp in particular does try to filter our multiple reviews from the same IP, and that TripAdvisor’s fraud rules do include clauses that might get you into trouble (such as offering incentives for people to write reviews is not permitted.)

I’d recommend that there are two steps around this type of issue:

  1. Try to appeal for reviews only from people who already have accounts on those sites (e.g.: "If you’re a Yelp member, please review us here…." or "If you have a Google account, please leave a review here…"
  2. Make this ‘post-wifi-login’ page available on the public internet; review sites should be able to recognize that lots of people are being referred to your page from the same URL – if it’s public then they’ll be able to visit that page, and should figure out what is going on.

I’ve built a quick free template for you to to download as a starting point. You can visit the file, or download it, by clicking this link: free wifi login CTA page.

(That was created based on a template from LayoutGala; I’m not going to add any licence to it, other than use it however you want. You should change the image that are in it to be local files at the very least.)

Honestly, it doesn’t take long to print off a couple of small posters (or even to publish a nice wifi login page) so I’ll hope to see social-media CTAs cropping up all over the place soon. :)

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Posted by RobOusbey

Let’s start with a sneaky tactic.

I know that SEOmoz blog readers are an internet-savvy crowd, so many of you are probably familiar with the ‘browser history sniffing’ techniques that exist. (Bear with me, we’ll get to internet marketing advice in a moment.)

In case you’ve not come across the concept before, it’s probably best exemplified by the site Start Panic – just hit the ‘Let’s start!’ button to watch it trawl through your browser history, and start listing sites that even you forgot you’d visited.
 
StartPanic uses Javascript to do the dirty work, but it’s also possible to do this completely using CSS, and without Javascript. (There’s advice about implementing the technical side of this in a popular post by Niall Kennedy.)
 
I wanted to show how you can use this to help your website perform better – let’s begin with the least controversial, and work on from there
 

1 – Customize the User Experience

Niall’s post – linked above – suggests one very sensible use of this technique: offering your users links to the social sites they use, and hiding the ones they don’t. In this bottom of this live example page, you’ll see a ‘Digg It’ button if you’ve been to Digg, a ‘Share on Facebook’ button if you’ve been there, etc. By limiting the set of sharing buttons, you can remove that ‘social clutter’ that is prevalent on some sites – this doesn’t just give a cleaner page to the user, but may have a much higher ‘sharing’ rate for your page.
 
Customization can also be made is to the content of your site: use the browser history sniffing technique to see the kinds of blogs and news sites your visitors are reading, and then adjust your content based on the results. For example: I might consider writing a weekly post about PPC for the Distilled blog. We could check to see how many of the Distilled visitors had looked at PPC Hero, the AdWords blog, and the AdWords support pages. If the number was high enough, we might consider adding content to satisfy that niche.
 
Likewise, if you find that a high proportion of your readers visit KittenWar, then you might consider adding a little more ‘cute’ to your posts.
 

2 – Retarget Your Publicity

 
Traditional ad-network retargeting works in the following way:
  • a visitor comes to your site, and leaves without making a purchase
  • your advertising network drops a cookie onto that user’s computer
  • the user visits a different site which displays ads from that network
  • the network recognizes the user, and shows them an ad for your product
  • hopefully they’re reminded of you, and come back to the site to make a purchase.
However, this retargeting only works when you can cookie people once they’ve visited your site. I’d propose using this technique to alter the copy on your site, based on what the user has already seen about you elsewhere.
 
For example: check for new posts about your brand each morning (or can I assume you do this already?) If your company had three product reviews on blogs and news sites today, then record these URLs, and check to see if each visitor to your site has already read one of them. You could then display a prominent content box on the front page with information about the exact product they saw reviewed, and a link to your page for that product. You might even acknowledge they’d seen the review: "Initech wants to offer you a 10% discount, as a reader of The Daily Bugle"
 
You could use the same technique for Reputation Management. If a site has published a negative article about you, there’s a potential that people will come to your site to find out more. However, you may not want to simply have a message on your front page that reads "The Bluth Company has NOT committed treason – read more" – but you could choose display this headline only to people who’ve read about the story already.
 

3 – Find Your Competitors’ Customers

This is where you could really up-the-ante with your CRO efforts.
 
I recently saw a bank who offered $100 to people who closed their account at a competitor’s bank and switched over. This would be a perfect opportunity to sniff each visitor’s browser history, to see if you should promote this offer to them on your site. You can even avoid showing it to people who have been shopping around (and looking at every bank’s website homepage) by checking to see if they’ve visited the URLs for logging in and out of the competitor’s online banking to see if they’re actually a customer of that company.
 
For e-commerce sites, you could check to see if your visitor has visited your competitor’s site, but could also check if they’ve looked at the competitor’s product on Amazon or other retailers. Your product page could then include a comparison between the two products. That could increase conversions, but you’d avoid comparing your product to a competitor’s for anyone who’d never seen the competing product.
 

To Conclude

So, the practice of checking to see if a visitor has already been to particular pages might seem a little shady at first – but this part of the way that the web and web browsers are designed, and people can block their browser history if they’d prefer.
 
Executed in the right way, it could be a very powerful technique for creating high performing, high converting websites. Use it wisely.
 
 

(Thanks for reading; you can follow me on Twitter: @RobOusbey, and I’m pleased to be speaking alongside some of the best SEO practitioners around at this year’s Pro Training Seminar – tickets are still available.)

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Posted by RobOusbey

At a small or medium sized company, you might be part of a very small team with responsibility for SEO, or you may the only person – and it might not even be your full time job.

In these cases, people often tell me that the greatest struggle is finding time and resources to do link building for their site. Rather than pitching your boss to hire a new team member to assist with SEO and link building, you may have more success (and get more value out of) asking for a little time with members of different teams from different disciplines.
 
These staff may be able to give an hour or two each week explicitly to spend on ‘link building’, or you may be able to introduce them to the concepts, and help them to build link building in to their regular activities.
 
In this post, I’ll focus on the responsibilities and activities your colleagues may have, rather than specific employee positions, since the person with responsibility for different jobs varies greatly depending on the organization.
 
I’ll also give real examples of tactics used in the past, but collected together for a fictional company – RobTech. This company produces "practice management software" for doctors and dental surgeries; it usually sells direct, and gets a lot of leads through their website. Let’s take a look at how different internal activities could support link building.
 

Sales

There’s potential to get links from satisfied customers and even people who haven’t bought your products/services.
 

Example:

RobTech’s sales funnel typical begins with the visitor filling in an enquiry form on the website, then having an online product demo with a member of the sales team. After the demo, people either buy the software, turn it down because they don’t like it, or turn it down saying that they like it but can’t buy it right now (often because of the cost.)
 
This third group is often a valuable opportunity for publicity and a link. In response to their rejection, the sales team member replies to say "Thanks, I understand why you can’t buy the software at this time. I notice you have a blog on your site; since you liked the software, I was hoping you might be able to do a brief write-up / review for me?"
 
They also send some screen shots and other resources to make writing the post much easier. Only around 20% actually write a post, but they are from high-quality sites, and always include a link.
 

Conference Speakers

If you company ever attends exhibitions to demo the product, or speaks at conferences, there’s a chance that people will want to write about what they saw. The sign of a great presentation is when it was so interesting that attendees are desperate to share it with others – but we can make the process of sharing it (through writing or blogging about the company) even easier.
 

Example:

RobTech’s Product Director speaks at five or six conferences each year. He sees many people finish their presentations with a website URL, and maybe even a link to download the slide deck. Instead, he makes sure that all RobTech’s presentations are made available with extras. A page on their site contains the slide deck, high quality versions of the images used, full data sources for charts and tables shown, and links to each of the other RobTech resources and white-papers mentioned in the presentation.
 
He calls this the ‘Journalist & Blogger Pack’ – it includes a note to encourage people to use and share the contents, but asks them to credit RobTech with a link to the site. It only takes a little time to upload the appropriate content to a special URL each time, but it has increased the number of bloggers and publishers who include RobTech in their ‘conference round-ups’.
 

Public Relations

I’m fascinated by the crossover between PR and SEO. You’re lucky to be in a very strong position if you have a PR team that is experienced in persuading newspaper/magazine journalists to write about you – but you need to teach them how to use their skills online.
 

Example:

RobTech’s PR team began by approaching the two biggest online-only medical news websites, and quickly managed to place an article in both sites. They’ve since looked at other sites outside the niche, and have received coverage (and links) from a technology news site (in an article about ‘The Doctor’s Surgery of the Future’) and a web design site (which reviewed their new site, purely from a design perspective.)
 
One PR team member has been spending a few hours a week reaching out to bloggers in different niches to introduce them to a new product demo video; some bloggers linked to it in their ‘weekly roundups’ and one blogger embedded the video and wrote about it.
 

Copywriting

Many companies have people responsible for writing various official text, from marketing copy, to online product descriptions, to technical and help documentation. There’s every chance that they’d appreciated the opportunity to spread their wings and write something for you to help with SEO, so introduce them to the concept of linkbait, and see if they can come up with anything.
 

Example:

The girl who manages the knowledge base for RobTech (basically a very dry list of error messages and how to resolve them) came up with the idea of ‘The Top Six Moments of Dr Nick Riviera‘, which was simply ten embedded YouTube videos, but got to number one on Reddit, and received a lot of links. The guy who writes technical descriptions for the website wrote a short page about "Ten things you don’t want to hear your dentist say (while he’s peering into your mouth.)" which was well received by bloggers and got a few good links.
 

Personnel / Human Resources

There’s a big opportunity for larger companies that are regularly recruiting, since many job ad sites allow links to be included in adverts.
 

Example:

RobTech have updated the standard template for their job adverts; alongside the request to email your CV and cover letter to the HR Director, they also say ‘find out more about the company and what’s it’s like to work here on our recruitment page.‘ A fair number of these links are nofollow-ed, but a good number do pass value – and this change came from just a 15 minute conversation with two people who’d never heard of SEO before, so the ROI here was technically awesome.
 

Procurement

If you take use the products or services of other online companies, ask them if you they’d be interested in you writing a case-study or testimonial for them.
 

Example:

RobTech used a local removal firm to help the relocate the office last year. They wrote a few sentences about how pleased they were with the service, which the company now uses on the front page of their website, including a link to the site. The company also uses a specialist web service to encrypt and store private patient data; that company’s site now has a full case study about how RobTech uses the service, which includes a couple of deep links to useful landing pages.
 

Designers & Creatives

If your company has creative employees that aren’t being fully utilized, there’s often an opportunity for them to create link-worthy content.
 

Example:

After the new website had launched, RobTech’s designer had a few days free. She took some of the rejected designs that weren’t used for the site, had a developer turn then into HTML files, and offered them up as free downloads. The page has received a significant number of links from free CSS template sites; they’ve since added a collection of free vector images which did very well on DesignFloat.
 
Although the links are not from their target niches, they’ve usefully contributed to the site’s authority.
 

Corporate Social Responsibility

If your organization gives donations of money or time to charities, or undertakes other ‘CSR’ initiatives, don’t just be satisfied with the ‘cosmic karma’ this provides. Find the person who manages this for your company, and show them how to turn it into ‘link karma’ as well.
 

Example:

RobTech gives an annual donation to local dog shelter (the CEO is an archetypal ‘dog person’) – and the shelter now has a badge in their sidebar, thanking the company for their donation. Even more successful has been the ‘technology recycling’ drive the company runs one weekend each year. This year they put up a page on the site about the event, which received links from a variety of local sites, including the mayor’s website.
 

Summary

Many of these example might not be exactly appropriate to your organization, but I hope that you can see at least a few opportunities to bring more employees into your own ad-hoc link-building team. Figure out who you’d like to be involved, and speak to a boss today about getting them to free up just a little time to help do your bidding.
 

 

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Posted by RobOusbey

When you’re told that certain visitors can never be converted, you need a new type of conversion – and need to make sure those visitors get the opportunity to convert without it looking like a ‘second best’ option.

There’s a tactic that I’ve recently seen used in a few very different industries; I wanted to share this with you, as it’s something definitely worth considering for your site and your business.

For you busy people, here’s the abridged version:

  1. Have multiple actions that could be defined as a successful conversion.
  2. Put these options on the table, and let the user choose how to convert.
  3. If you have data about which actions different audience segments prefer, point them to the action where they’re most likely to convert.

I’ll try to keep this post brief: this will save you time that you can then spend on better things – like implementing the ideas. We’ll start with some more typical conversion processes, and I’ll give examples of online and offline implementations of each – and finish with three ways that sites could implement these theories properly.

Traditional Conversion Structure

For example:

  • A potential customer walks past a maket stall holder, he shouts "Five apples for a pound", and the customer either buys apples, or doesn’t.
  • The site shown below sells cardboard boxes with a hole in the top (serving a very particular purpose) – but if you don’t buy the box, there’s nothing else to do.

The ‘Don’t Go Yet’ Model

For example:

  • You go to a store to buy a suit. The tailor shows you the ‘best suit in the store’ – but you don’t buy it, so he shows you ‘something very special’ – but you don’t buy it, so he shows you ‘something that will be perfect for you’ etc.
  • You visit SlapChop.com, but Vince’s advice to ‘stop having boring tuna, stop having a boring life‘ doesn’t convince you. On closing the page, you can practically hear him protest "BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE" – in the form of a popup offering you a $5 discount if you don’t leave.

The Right Way: Pick a Conversion Action

Example 1: Handling the decisions offline

Tableau Software (a client) sells data visualization software and has recently launched a free tool – Tableau Public – for publicity and links; it can be used by individuals to create visualizations, share them online, embed them in blogs posts (as Will did here), etc.

Potential Tableau customers submit contact forms or emails; the sales team then reviews these leads, before replying to them and selling the product. The sales team know that leads from some organizations (based on the size, type or location) almost never convert – so they don’t spend much time on those ‘lost causes’.

However, the new free tool has given Tableau an opportunity to give these leads to the SEO team instead – someone can then get in touch and say "You asked about our enterprise software, but did you know we have a similar tool available for free? You can download it here and get going straight away."

This can even be followed up with an email two weeks later, along the lines of "How are you getting on with Tableau Public? If it’s been useful, and you’d like to say thank you, we’d love if you’re able to embed a viz on your website to share with others. We really enjoy seeing what our users have created, and we really appreciate any opportunity to tell more people about the tool."

Suddenly, some very basic ‘segmentation’ can help save time for the sales team, and build links to the website. This is possible because the company has more than one action they define as ‘success’ – and can aim directly at getting the visitor to take the most appropriate action, rather than trying their luck with the high value actions first, and then negotiating down to a different conversion.

 

Example 2: Presenting the options in parallel, let the user self-identify

Imagine a site which lets visitors donate to one or more charities. These sites often have a small call to action to ‘share’ the website/charitable cause – but I’d suggest defining this sharing as a successful conversion, and presenting it as an alternative to giving money. Could this inadvertently reduce the number of donations received? I suspect not, and anticipate that a page would see more traffic and more donations if the two options were presented as shown below.

Example 3: Optimise dynamically to promote the best converting option

This example uses a site that offers PPC Tools, and PPC management services. They might have read this post so far, and now have a landing page that clearly offers their two services in this way:

But why stop there? Collect some data about which visitors prefer which service, relative conversion rates, etc, and then edit the page content to reflect the type of visitor that’s just arrived. Take a look at this:

Example 4: A Real Case Study

The excellent Conversion Rate Experts have posted a case study on their website for Voices.com which uses some of these techniques to segment their users into two separate conversion funnels. While not directly related to some of the things in this post it demonstrates how multiple different conversion options can work very effectively:

 

In Conclusion

There are already some businesses using these techniques, and some websites that are set up to benefit from the ideas, but there are also a lot of places where this isn’t the case. If you’re not being upfront about the steps you’d like visitors to take, or hiding your ‘offers’ to them, then there’s potential for you to make changes that will lead to happier and more productive customers.

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Posted by RobOusbey

There are a variety of tools and techniques recommended for SEO keyword research, from the free to the expensive, from the well-known to those that are almost kept a secret. However, there’s one source of keyword ideas which is often overlooked: the customers (and potential customers) served on a daily basis.

Let’s get sidetracked for a moment: I’ve lost track of the number of people at agencies who have been asked the question "If you’re so good at SEO, why don’t you rank for ‘SEO in New York’?" (Or wherever the agency is based.)

The answers vary, but one important thing is almost always the same: when you look at the off-line inquiries, people rarely phone up an SEO agency and say "Hello, I’d like you to perform some SEO for me, to cover a variety of tasks including keyphrase research, on site recommendations and link building" – the phone call is more likely to begin with "Hi there, er, I have a website where I sell my widgets, but I want to sell more, and I think I need to promote the site better online. Someone said there might be stuff you could do to help me?".

To mine this rich source of keywords, you want to teach your front-line staff to spot the ‘keyphrases’ that are embedded within the first three or four statements the enquirer makes, such as ‘sell more online‘ or ‘promote my website‘.

A 1960s secretary, from an era when few could imagine the incredible things for which the internet would be used, and she would never have expected her photo to end up here.

Your new, killer Keyword Research Tool

Get Your Hands Dirty

Of course, you don’t need to be a fashionable new industry like search marketing to make this work for you.

Let’s say you work for an auto garage. One of the most popular services you offer is tire balancing – it noticeably helps improve a vehicle’s driving experience, but it’s not too expensive (though it has good margins). The page on your website is well targeted towards ‘tire balancing’ and ranks fairly well in your area, but doesn’t receive many visits or have a great conversion rate.

You head down to the garage and ask the mechanic how many tire balancings he’s done recently.

"We’ve had three in just this morning", replies the helpful greasemonkey.

"And they all came here because they know we do tire balancing?" you ask, naively.

"Aw, no – all three just said their steering wheel was vibrating when they were on the freeway, so it had to be the balance was off," he replies.

You’ve heard what you needed to, and without another word you race back to the office, and update the page. The new title reads "Steering wheel vibrating? We’ll fix it in 1 hour with tire balancing" and the rest of the page is updated too. You not only start to receive more traffic, but it converts better as well.

Showing staff – whether they are receptionists, shop assistants, hard working mechanics or professionals – the value of spotting these keywords will help you gather a rich source of new targetable ideas, and it’s one that your competitors won’t be able to get to.

Keyphrase research? Oooh, that’s gonna cost ya….

Next stop: New Keyphrases

You can also go one-step-removed to get keyword ideas.

National Express are a UK-wide coach service (a little like the Greyhounds in the US) that get you from A to B more slowly and much more cheaply than taking the train. Their site targets terms such as ‘coach trip from Bath to Newcastle’ etc.

However, if I were them, I’d be calling the travel agents who have made bookings on behalf of customers, to find out what people asked for, when the booking ended up with a coach trip being the right answer. It’s possible that phrases such as ‘overnight journey to Newcastle’ or ‘cheap way to get up North’ will have actually come up in conversation, and the agents have then recommended a coach trip.

These phrases should then definitely be considered for targeting on the site.

Loitering with Intent to Research

One final example, from a conversation overheard in a garden center, between a customer (played by a middle aged female, looking lost) and the sales assistant (an underpaid college kid, looking increasingly confused):

  • Customer: Hi, where could I find a mopsy?
  • Assistant: I .. I’m sorry ma’am?
  • Customer: You know, the thing I can screw to a wall to grow plants up?
  • Assistant: Do you mean a trellis?
  • Customer: Ah yes! I knew it was the name of one of my daughter’s rabbits.

If I worked for an online garden supplies website, I’d have immediately made a note to write a blog post about ‘How to Grow Plants up a Wall.’ I also think I’d have spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around to listen to what else people were asking for by description or by describing their problem, rather than searching for an item by name.

Whatever your niche, see if there’s a place you can hang out to get the opportunity for this kind of real world keyword research.

It’s Search Marketing

It’s been said many times that a significant part of sales and/or marketing is to solve each customer’s problem. This is just another way of getting you close to that goal, and bring you new business at the same time.

 


CC Photo Attribution:

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Posted by RobOusbey

Search Engine Optimization covers a huge range of tactics – all of which can bring direct benefit to a website. In this post, I’ve shared examples of different tactics used at different websites, and the effects that have been seen. If you’re considering an SEO campaign for your site, or are trying to persuade someone else to invest in internet marketing, I hope this post will help demonstrate the potential of internet marketing.

The post includes real screen shots from Google Analytics (click any of them to enlarge) but the sites and data have been anonymized.

Target Your Target Terms

Remember that post about building a page with perfect keyword targeting? SEOmoz wasn’t kidding around.

A website that sells homewares had issues with site structure and on-page targeting. Their category level pages were at subdomains such as

  • http://kitchenequipment.sitename.com

or

  • http://livingrooms.sitename.com

whilst each sub-category was back on the main subdomain at:

  • www.sitename.com/find_product2.asp?url1=living+room&url2=rugs+and+carpets

Category and sub-category pages had a distinct lack of semantic HTML or term targeting.

Getting appropriate H1 tags onto each page was a quick job, improving title tag structure took a bit longer, clean & friendly URLs and internal links with appropriate anchor text were also added.

The site saw ranking improvements across the board, which brought new traffic through head, mid and long tail terms. Can you guess when the changes were made? ;-)

Getting sorted in Google Local

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of ranking factors for Local Search, dead simple tactics, etc, it’s important to get the basics right. A large chain of restaurants created a ‘bulk upload’ file with the correct data for each one of their locations. After uploading the file, they applied for it to be reviewed and ‘whitelisted’. Local data that’s been uploaded by the business owner and whitelisted is treated as authoritatively as locations that have been manually verified by postcard.

Despite various issues (Google’s best practice guidelines still aren’t quite the best solution in some cases) the traffic generated by visibility in Local Search has been significant and valuable. (The uploads were verified in late November when the traffic begins its steady rise.)

Architecture of Change

A current affairs magazine wanted to get more from their website. Because of falling advertising revenue, the publication was at risk of being closed down. They’d seen some growth from SEO already, but wanted to prove that the website had greater value.

Although the site had a good brand and some great content, it suffered from similar problems to many news-type websites, including badly archived content, duplicate issues and a CMS that hampered keyword targeting or promoting individual articles. Recommendations were made to improve the site’s architecture and migrate to the new structure.

The effect of the changes was immediate growth which took the organic traffic to 257% in three months. A month later, the magazine’s owner explained that the falling revenue from print advertising meant that they couldn’t continue to lose money publishing the mag, and closed it down.

Hook, Line, Sinker

An office cleaning company wanted to improve the profile of their site through SEO. Amongst other tactics, a member of staff spent a day writing a ‘linkbait’ post to publish on their blog. This generated huge amounts of traffic from social media sites (dwarfing their regular daily visitors) and was subsequently linked to from dozens of sites. This post, along with other content published on the site to attract links, helped the site grow in strength and authority, and it now ranks position 3 for ‘office cleaning’ in their country.

Paid In Full

This is SEOmoz, but I’d like to share a graph from a PPC colleague working on a site that sells scooters. They were initially bidding on very broad terms (scooter, scooters, buy a scooter, etc) but the campaign was adjusted to target more long tail terms, including descriptions, specifications, etc.

Over a period of around six weeks, the cost per click was reduced by 30% and the more targeted traffic converted increasingly well – this allowed the site owners to increase their ad budget and generated more sales than their paid search campaign ever had before.

If you’re new to SEOmoz and this post has inspired you to get involved in search marketing for your site, do browse the site for the PRO & free SEO guides and the SEO blog. If you’re a regular, do share any stories you’re particularly proud of in the comments.

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