Easy Mass Back Link Evaluation for the Non-SEO

Bad Links

Some of those links are gettin’ a little rusty.

Have you seen traffic dip in the wake of Penguin 2.0? Are your rankings for converting key terms slipping from where they used to be? Even worse, have you received the dreaded Google Webmaster Tools notice about unnatural links? Do you suddenly have a reason to review each and every one of the thousands or tens of thousands of links pointing to your site? Are you perhaps vetting a new linking vendor who’s providing you with a large inventory? How do you ensure that you’re getting what you’re paying for, and that your vendor isn’t simply giving you links from a site with a bad design hosted in a nasty neighborhood, or a site that just started last month whose PR has been inflated well beyond what the site’s actually worth? With this post I will give you some insight into how to evaluate a large number of back links, quickly.

Get it? GET IT?!?!

First, you will need a tool that will show you the PageRank of a site in your browser. I use SEO Book’s SEO Toolbar. I’m not going to go on at length here about the general uselessness of PageRank, but in this case it can be useful. (Even tools that don’t give an exactly accurate measurement can be useful for comparative analyses, sort of like what we’re doing here. Google Analytics, for example, once your site gets big enough, just shows extrapolated data based on a percentage of visits. That doesn’t make the data it provides meaningless.) Along with PageRank, you will need a tool to measure the approximate amount of traffic to the site over the last two years, encompassing the time frame when Penguin 1 and Penguin 2 hit. I use SEM Rush.

So how do you know what’s a good link and what’s a bad link? It’s a mixture of common sense, intuition, and experience. My general procedure is this:

1. Open a browser with two tabs, one with SEM Rush, one blank. Copy the root domain of the URL you are evaluating into the blank tab, and into the SEM Rush search field also. While SEM Rush churns the data, watch the site load. Is it really slow? Is there an intrusive popup ad, or autoplay video, or anything else that would indicate shoddy quality to a person and consequently a search engine spider? Then disqualify the page. Are there too many ads above the fold (meaning, do you have to hunt for the content?), are there ads to poker/pill/porn sites, is the site very generic, is it just a list of links- there are too many reasons to list to disqualify a link here, so I will use Google’s language for “what to look for”:

Cheap spam links, paid links that pass PageRank, link exchanges, links hidden in CSS or   Javascript, homogenous anchor text, excessive links in too short a period of time, links from sites in other languages, links from blog networks, links that appear sitewide in side bars or footers, links to and from “bad neighborhood” sites, broken internal links, over-optimization of the site itself, excessive website downtime, duplicate or scraped content, low value or spun content, too many ads, meta keyword tag stuffing, cloaked pages, doorway pages, multiple H1 tags per page, hidden content, using automated query tools (rank checkers), being hacked, or promoting black hat techniques. (I know, this looks like a lot to look for but you won’t have to get this granular with every site. These very specific critiques are meant to tip the scales in the frequent occurrence of an “edge case”.

2. Check out the site’s traffic profile in SEM Rush, and compare that to the site’s PageRank. You may have a different standard than I do that you will develop after much practice, but my personal standard is that if the site is anything more than a PR 2, it needs to have some traffic to support it. I figure that Google could conceivably give an ungamed site with good content but no traffic up to a PR 2, but I think once you hit PR 3 range, the site was gamed to that PR unless it has traffic to support it. So if SEM Rush says the site has only seen 5 visitors a month for the last 3 years yet the SEO Book toolbar shows them at a PR 5, I would not use that site.

3. Again, looking at the traffic profile in SEM Rush- are there any huge craters where the site lost a great percentage of its’ traffic over the course of one or two months? That site was severely penalized! Don’t use it!

crater

4. Do the words “seo”, “link”, or “rank” appear anywhere in the URL? Don’t use it!

The thing to keep in mind when doing these reviews is to remain highly skeptical. You want to look at every link with a critical eye and assume they are no good. Assuming they are fine will get you in trouble. Penguin-proof yourself- only accept legitimate links moving forward! Your rankings, traffic, conversions and clients will thank you.

photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregoryjordan/,  http://reverendmommy.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html

How To Handle Blog Comments- Once You Start Getting Them

It’s tough to get a blog going! From a technical standpoint, getting everything set up the way you like it, making sure all your social media accounts and RSS feeders are hooked up, and installing all the right plugins and scripts for analytics and social sharing you’re looking at a good 8 hour day, unless it’s heavily templated or you’re just ripping off an existing design (nothing wrong with either of those, for the record!) Then, after that, comes the really difficult part, which is actually writing something! Anyone who’s written a blog for any amount of time knows that eventually you run out of topics, or out of time or steam, and the really hard part is that you have to keep going, even when you don’t have any ideas or just plain don’t feel like writing anything.

Congratulations, you’ve gotten over those hurdles and now your blog is starting to pick up a readership! Your articles are getting retweeted or shared on Facebook or Google+ and people are actually engaging you through those channels. You’ve got people commenting on your blog now- after a while in the desert, finally, you’ve reached an oasis! So, what are the different types of blog comments you see, and what should you do with them?

1. Spam

2. Criticism

3. Legitimate discussion

4. Pingbacks

5. Gushing praise

1. Should be deleted, it’s a poor quality signal to the search engines. Having comments on the blog just to have them is no good, and beware of 2 especially tricky types of spammers, both of which have hit this blog at some point. The first is the one who writes a comment effusively praising your blog or comment or topic, but then he’s named ‘viagraforuxxx420’ and links to some shady site. The second is someone who will write something seemingly helpful like “I can’t get the RSS feed to work, mind helping me out?” Beware of these seemingly beneficial comments; neither is real and therefore neither is valuable. Lots of spam tends to pop up on blog posts that have a good response as the spammers think they can piggyback off of your hard work.

2. Any product with a large volume of sales is going to have some criticisms. This can be countered with excellent customer service as well as- this is tricky- handling the issue publicly, responding to comments. If the overwhelming majority of comments are negative or even hateful, consider turning comments off altogether- hiding negative comments won’t help you seem authentic, but having 300 vitriolic posts about how your product is a scam or your service sucks is clearly pretty detrimental to the success of the site as well.

3. This is very helpful for SEO but these types of comments tend to be few and far between, at least on a small scale blog with maybe 100 visitors, such as this one. Make sure to let these through and respond with a thank you, or address the commenters’ point- healthy debate and discussion will beget more healthy debate and discussion, and since the search engines want to see engagement, what better way to show it than to actually, you know, engage your readers?!?

4. This is a search engine bot posting a comment to validate that the blog is real. This can be deleted.

5. Be wary of gushing praise, some is clearly fine as it’s an endorsement of your product or brand, but if there’s too many comments outright praising you, with nothing negative to balance it, it looks bad. Also remember, Google is a domain registrant- they know if you are commenting on your own properties to make yourself look better. Don’t do this!

Encourage commenting when you post what you write to Facebook, or Google+, or whatever forums you inhabit- there’s nothing wrong with encouraging a little feedback from your regular readers! The key is sincerity.

SEO 2.0- What’s a Traditional SEO To Do?

Have you ever heard the expression “if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got? Usually, I find that to be very much true. However, when we look at the process of SEO after the earth shattering Penguin and Panda algorithm updates from Google, it’s pretty clear that SEOs are going to have to change to adapt.

SEO to this point has been a pretty straightforward process of onsite optimization, content syndication, and back link acquisition. Many agencies and SEO professionals even have a routine down for doing this kind of formulaic SEO, however, it’s simply not going to work any more- at least for Google. In fact, it’s almost as if Google looked at those tactics and specifically decided to smack them down as part of these latest “P” updates (is Pirahna next? OH NO!). Many of the SEOs that I know are really struggling, as the way they’ve done SEO has always worked, basically, if you were doing SEO and your competitors weren’t, you’d have the upper hand on the SERP. Not so any more; so, what do you offer clients in place of those “old school” services? It’s time to change the model, and I have some suggestions here that I think can replace “traditional” SEO services.

Before I get into the list, I definitely want to point out that I do think there is still a place for on site optimization; that will never change, but it’s really a commodity now, nearly everyone does the same type of onsite optimization of meta tags, navigation, internal linking, and the like. The only real opportunity for creativity there is the keyword research, after that part is done the rest of an SEO campaign generally plays out the same way in most cases. Content production and distribution also have a place but the way we do that has changed, as well- Ezine Articles doesn’t work any more, folks! Linkbuilding, which I, in white hat SEO snob mode, have never really considered to be SEO, is (thankfully) going the way of the dodo- at least the old way of getting hundreds of crappy directory and comment links every month is.

The biggest piece of advice I have for SEOs in the Post-Penguanda era is STOP TRYING TO BEAT THE ALGORITHM. Let me repeat that- STOP TRYING TO GAME GOOGLE’S ALGORITHM. You are a marketer now, you always have been, but you are going to need some new techniques to fill the gaps of all the old crap you used to sell that worked only because Google hadn’t caught up to it. Here are some services you can offer to keep the value of your services in your clients’ minds.

Back link audits and removal of poor quality inbound links- I really feel that all SEO campaigns should be taking a month off right now, to audit all the inbound links to the site and spend some time getting any shady ones removed. You need to start fresh with a clean link profile. This can be a long and arduous process, and it might not show much fruit as it can be very difficult to get bad links removed (when you can find them) but especially if your client has received a notice from Google in the form of a Webmaster Tools message or even a letter, you must scrub that profile. This could take months but it is totally worth it moving forward. In fact, I would take the drastic step of halting all SEO work to solely commit to the backlink audit, until it’s clean.

Social marketing integration- Social signals are being used in the major search engines’ algorithms and most clients are clueless about how to use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube to send the proper signals. Using an application like Buffer, a client’s social media campaign can be largely automated, and it is about an hour’s work to write 20 Tweets, 2 G+ posts and 2 Facebook posts to then trickle out over the course of the week. You can’t make them participate but you can give them a voice, if nothing else. Showing clients how to connect with a social media audience using appropriately hash tagged and linked content is a very valuable service, and it’s not separate from SEO. In fact, I’d like to get that out there right now- social media and SEO can’t be placed in separate buckets any more. They are one and the same.

Blogger Outreach- this is the new linkbuilding. Spending time building an inventory of bloggers that are willing to write (and disclose) sponsored posts, with inline links back to your site, is the new linkbuilding. Stop thinking of how to get 100 links in a day and instead focus on getting 2 really good ones, if you insist on retaining the “linkbuilding” title for your job. Some of the old techniques still work here, as well, such as contacting webmasters with dead links on their pages and asking them to replace those links with links to your site, but in the future “linkbuilding” is really going to be about relationship building.

Conversion rate optimization- what good is it bringing a horse to water if you can’t make them drink? By using advanced techniques such as geotargeting or behavioral segmentation, you can make the traffic that does come to the site more valuable. A/B testing and multivariate testing are also very valuable, and can provide insights into the client’s customer base that they’d never be able to get anywhere else but online.

Business analysis- a good SEO makes themselves a partner with their client. It’s not about squeezing another month of fees out of them with a song and dance about the latest update and how valuable your knowledge is, it’s about partnering with them to learn their industry, learn their customers, and learn their demographic. Again, this requires a lot of work, and you might have to get outside your comfort zone. I’m always surprised at how many SEOs claim to be able to help their clients make more money and do better business, yet lack any basic business training themselves.  This sort of business analysis also requires regular phone calls with the client, but don’t go too crazy- anything more often than a biweekly call is probably pushing it and is going to strain the relationship. Nothing drives me crazier as a marketer than having meetings just to have them, it wastes everyone’s time as both sides scramble to have something to talk about. Every two weeks is plenty; and regular meetings should be counted as a very valuable deliverable.

Multi-channel attribution- Google has made this even easier for us to do with their new multi-touch reporting, which is able to give insight on what the purchase/conversion funnel looks like. From “the percentage of visitors who touched the site first via PPC, but then purchased via organic search” to “how to drive traffic to the site using social media”, SEOs can provide business owners great insight about how their clients behave online. For example, if you have a product that skews young, there’s a good chance that people are first discovering your brand on Social Media- how can you capitalize on that? How can you optimize for the right channel and purchase path? How can you keep that sales funnel full? Multi channel attribution and the resultant optimization can answer all of these questions and many more. This is a newer area of SEO/marketing- unless you have an analytics solution that does these things already- and it’s a great first step towards selling an integrated campaign, as well.

Content Creation and Marketing- Wait a minute, didn’t I say that wasn’t going to work any more? Well yeah, but not the way you’ve traditionally done it, which is likely to pay someone in Asia or India $2 an hour to put out some terrible content that barely makes sense with a few exact match anchor text links back to your site, then put the content somewhere like eZine Articles or Article Alley. Content marketing now is about the same thing I’ve always personally advocated- give people some value! Give them a reason to come to your site, give them a reason to click that inline link. Infographic link bait, guest posts, and at the heart of it- good, original, valuable useful content- are the future of content marketing. Google needs good quality content to wrap its ads around, and the best way to get to the top of the SERP isn’t a secret to be figure out- it’s to be the most valuable resource. Part of our job as SEOs is to inform clients when they simply don’t deserve to rank higher for a given term, and then propose solutions such as going after longer tail keywords to make up the shortfall. Content marketing also includes SEO optimizing Press Releases when the client actually has something interesting or valuable to say. Optimzation or re-optimization of existing content can also be quite a valuable service, especially if the client has “old” content that hasn’t been updated in a while.

Adaptive/Responsive design recommendations- It’s important that client sites are flexible, as web content is being consumed on a dizzying and ever-increasing array of devices from phones to tablets to desktops. Architectural recommendations about how to build a site to scale properly so that all visitors see  all the clients’ content, in the best possible presentation, is part of both SEO and the previously mentioned conversion rate optimization. Schema.org markup is also very important, as Google builds its semantic web sites that feed the beast are going to get better SERP placements. This is also important as different devices proliferate- who knows what a browser will look like 5 years from now? Semantic markup is what the web was meant to be, if we’re only getting around to it 40 years later, so be it. Be on the cutting edge! Use the schema.org markup data to ensure maximum visibility.

Mobile website recommendations-  It doesn’t make sense for every brand to have its own mobile site, but it does make sense to build the site in a way that maximizes visibility across a lot of different devices. There’s a whole separate mobile algorithm that takes things like scalability and site speed into account; so it’s important to optimize for that algorithm. Some clients would be better served by building an App for their customers- it’s an SEO’s job to make that consideration/recommendation as well.

Site speed optimization- Regardless of what you sell or to whom you sell it, the Internet is getting faster, connected devices are getting faster, and mobile website access is becoming more common. Site speed is an important part of the algorithm and an especially important part of the mobile algorithm. Any recommendations to make sites load and parse faster are very valuable, and while most SEOs aren’t programmers, there are lots of resources out there that can tell you in plain English what’s causing a site to be slow.

Have you noticed a theme to these recommendations? They all require actual work :) SEO has always appealed to people because hey, it’s on a computer, that means you can automate and replicate and duplicate and not really have to do ACTUAL work, right? Wrong. SEO has never been about that, and now,  those SEO chickens are coming home to roost. Get on it! Improve yourself, improve your knowledge, improve your techniques, and improve the service you give your clients to be an SEO 2.0 superstar.

Publish or Perish- Internet Marketing in the Post-Penguin; Post-Panda Era

Ever heard the phrase “the attention economy“? Here’s a little primer, a hand-picked part of the definition from Wikipedia, as it relates to advertising:

“Attention economics” today is primarily concerned with the problem of getting consumers to consume advertising. Traditional media advertisers followed a model that suggested consumers went through a linear process they called AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Attention is therefore a major and the first stage in the process of converting non-consumers. Since the cost to transmit advertising to consumers is now sufficiently low that more ads can be transmitted to a consumer than the consumer can process, the consumer’s attention becomes the scarce resource to be allocated.”

When you advertise on the Internet, you’re not competing for billboard space, or bidding against competitors on TV airtime, or trying to get a good ROI on a radio spot or newspaper ad. The means of transmitting your marketing message has become inexpensive almost to the point of triviality and for about $30 a year- a dime a day- anyone can buy a domain with hosting and start putting out any message they want. What we are all really competing for is the User’s attention. The world of information and entertainment has become increasingly fractured into multiple streams, channels and verticals. Users consume all kinds of content on all kinds of devices, which are no longer bound to a specific geolocation.

What this all comes down to is that Google and the other search engines are having to change the way they grant authority to pages. I’ve written many times on this blog in the past about how linking used to be an extremely effective strategy; at the end of the day if you’d tried all the white hat techniques and explained to the client that these things take time but they are going to leave if you don’t do something RIGHT NOW, well, you could always as a last resort head over to TLA or TLB and buy some nice, exact-match anchor text from a somewhat relevant blog, and you would almost certainly see a bump in rankings. It was a sure thing. However, the search engine algorithms are more than ever accounting for the fact that links can be really easily gamed, and as a consequence, we are seeing social signals factor more and more into search results; with Google even having taken the bold step of laying the social strata right over top of the SERP with Google+. It doesn’t matter how resistant we are to these changes- we have to accept that the “old way” of doing SEO is simply not going to cut it any more.

If we’re competing for User’s attention, it follows logically that it’s not enough to put up a static website and throw links at it. YOU HAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ATTENTION ECONOMY. That means getting on Google+ (why are people so resistant to it anyway? You can maintain an active presence there in about 10 minutes a day). That means having a section of your blog where you update frequently with stuff that YOU write. It means Tweeting. It means getting the social signals that are supplanting links in the algorithm coming in to the site, and I hate to say it but the dirty secret here is that takes work. It takes a lot more work than linking did, but we can’t all just throw up our collective hands or worse- stubbornly stick to the way we’ve always done things- we have to move forward. Moving forward means being a publisher.

So how the hell do you do that?

1. Write regularly. Write high-quality content, that comes from your background in whatever it is you are writing about. Conversely, if you are writing about something that you don’t have any expertise in, do your research and credit your sources with outbound links- this is a great way to build community. Quality is more important than quantity; as a personal example I have been writing less and less frequently on this blog as I run out of things to say- but I’m branching out to write about other things to maintain the momentum I’ve built over the last year. Don’t write just to write- write because you have something to say and want people to listen.

2. Audit your old content and see if it can be refreshed, reshared, repurposed or somehow made more relevant for the User. I have stuff on this blog about The Old Republic MMO, for example, that is incorrect information. If I want to be considered authoritative about the game, shouldn’t I have all relevant, proper and correct information here? Of course! Otherwise, why would anyone read me- they’d just go to Darth Hater, as they’ve built a reputation for high quality relevant content.

3. Build a community by hosting guest posts and really engage your community; that’s how you command attention. Give away one of your best secrets, take the opposite side of an issue, create a little controversy! Give people a reason to pay attention.

It pains me to say it, but throwing links at a site doesn’t work any more. We are fully in the thick of socially-influenced search, and on the way to “semantic search”, whatever that turns out to be. The bottom line is that if you want to participate, you’ve got to publish or perish.

Pinterest- a Guide for Johnny Come Lately

What Pinterest Is

Pinterest is essentially an online, visual scrapbook. Users Pin images and videos from all over the Web to Boards, which are organized collections of categorized Pins. Users can browse categories, follow other Users or their Boards, and socially share Pins and Boards via Facebook, Twitter and RSS.

Use Case: A bride-to-be is making all of the decisions that need to be made leading up to the wedding. So that she can collect everything in one place, she sets up a Board called “Wedding Dresses”. As she surfs the Web, she can Pin images or videos of wedding dresses that she likes to her Board, giving her an easy place to go back and reference later, and also a centralized place for sharing. If she wants the bridesmaids’ opinion on their dresses, she can pin several to a Board and then direct her bridesmaids to check out the board and leave comments. She can also Follow other Pinterest users or Boards that have a similar focus, for suggestions.
Ultimately, Pinterest is a site about curation and discovery, both important activities as we move into the next iteration of the Internet- the social Internet.

 

Why it matters

Pinterest is appealing for 3 primary reasons- there’s no urgency or information overload, it’s less personal and more fun than other services, and it’s extremely easy to use.
Pinterest Users skew heavily female, and most are in the 18-44 demographic, with household incomes between $25,000 and $75,000, generally. About 60% of Pinterest Users have “some college” under their belt. If you have a visually appealing brand, especially one that appeals to Females, you must optimize your site for Pins, or you will be missing out on what is a rapidly expanding source of referral traffic. Nearly 1.5 million unique Visitors a day hit the site and spend almost 14 minutes there. Recent studies have shown that Pinterest is a better source of referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn, Reddit or YouTube. This is in spite of registration for the site being by invitation only. The number of unique Visitors to the site increased by 329%- to 7.21 million- between September and December of 2011.

 

Get Started Now!

Start using Pinterest now, while the User base is still rapidly growing and buzz around the service is at a fever pitch. The same rules for other social media services apply to Pinterest- say something meaningful, interesting and honest with your Followers, and try to represent your brand’s personality.

 

Specific Use Cases for Pinterest Integration into your Marketing Strategy

Brand Engagement- show the customer who you are, rather than telling them. Use images and video to convey your brands’ personality and drive engagement.
SEO-  looking at referral data can be a great way to identify brand influencers.
Market Research- Pinterest provides an opportunity for companies to engage their customers with Boards about fashion trends, for example, allowing Users to post to their Boards as well- merchandisers can than look at what is posted there to make decisions about buying, sales and special offers.
Trend Watching- Pinterest makes it easy for companies to search and understand what type of content Pinterest Users post- not just about their brand, but about competitors, seasonality, current events as well- trend watching on Pinterest makes all marketing decisions easier.

 

How to use Pinterest

A “Pin” is an image or video that links to the original content that is assigned to one of the User’s Boards. The User is able to write a short description of the item, and the pin can be from another User’s profile on Pinterest, from any website, or uploaded directly by the user.
A Board is simply a collection of pins that the User has grouped under one category- think “recipes”, “favorite books”, “shoes I’d like to buy”, “bathroom remodel ideas”, etc.
Users have the ability to Like, Repin, or Comment on Pins.
“Liking” the Pin adds it to your “Like” section, rather than to a Board.
Repinning a Pin lets you add someone else’s pin to one of your Boards- the original source link is kept intact and this action is marked as a Repin for the original Pinner.
Users can comment on their own or other’s pins.
Mentions allow you to shout out to specific Pinners- if you put @Mom on a Pin, Mom will get a notification that you Pinned something she may want to look at
Much like many established social networks, you can follow other Users, or even individual
“Pin this” button- allows Users to pin a product photo or video to a board for future reference.
The Pinterest Bookmarklet allows users to Pin to Boards directly from their browser.
Things to Remember
Pinterest lets Users follow topics and concepts in addition to as individuals. Compared to Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, there’s no pressure to stay on top of a constant barrage of comments and status updates if the User doesn’t want to.
Pinterest lets Users participate without having to create, removing a barrier to interaction
Pinterest allows Users to explore their options earlier in the purchase cycle.
Pinterest’s non-linear view of the web makes it feel “easier” than other sharing platforms.
Pinterest is a visually appealing, simple alternative to storing browser bookmarks.

 

How your Brand can Leverage Pinterest

1. Promote a lifestyle that your brand or products contributes to. Give people ideas and provide inspiration to promote sharing!
2. Use Pinterest to run a contest where people pin your images or take pictures of themselves using your products.
3. Share content from others that you wouldn’t want on your site, then direct your site’s Users to your Pinterest page to share.
4. Think of Pins as a “Visual Tweet”- instead of Tweeting an image out, Pin it, and then Tweet the Pin.
5. If you add a $ or £ sign to your description when you pin something, Pinterest will auto- generate a price tag on the pin.
6. Make sure content is pinnable! When you use the bookmarklet Pinterest will try to ascertain which is the largest image on the page- if you have a bunch of products on the same page it will be harder for the program to figure out which image you meant to pin. All products and product variations should have their own pages.
7. Add the “Pin It” button to your other Social Media sharing icons.
8. Add a “follow me on Pinterest” button to your site with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and G+ buttons.
9. DO NOT JUST PIN YOUR OWN CONTENT. Provide value to customers by allowing them to discover new things.

 

Author Rank and Reputation Management- 2 Birds, 1 Stone

If you missed this post from Google search guy Matt Cutts last July; please take a moment to peruse before you continue reading.

Now that Google+ is open to everybody and every brand, it should be pretty clear that social is going to be a big part of how search engines are going to evolve, unless people wholesale reject it and move towards some entirely different model of getting information out of the Internet- but I doubt that’s going to happen. I’ve heard a lot of criticism leveled at Google+; it’s a joke, it’s a ghost town, it’s D.O.A.; no one uses it, blah blah blah. All the people out there that are deriding Google+ as some sort of failed Facebook competitor are missing the boat by a long shot- Google doesn’t care if you use it like you use Facebook because that’s not the point. It’s a social “overlay” for the algorithm; like Steam and Origin are to video games. I don’t want to spend too much time on this topic but I do want to make a point so bear with me for a second and look at this screenshot from a client’s Google+ page:

 

 

I did a little white hat e-stalking and checked out 5 of the people following that brand at random; they all had at least one other social media account connected to their Google account, and some people had as many as 8 accounts connected. I have 17 connected because I am a huge nerd but the point is this- all of those other connected networks mean that as those Users +1 content- and they likely are, if they’ve connected an account to their G+ profile- they are influencing all of their friends/followers on all of those other networks. It literally does not matter if that person ever comes back to Google+ even one time because the connection is already made. The implications for reputation management in organic search through optimization of Google+ profiles should be fairly obvious.

Okay, now that I have scratched that particular itch, on to the meat of the post- Author Rank. Before too long, Google is going to have built a pretty good index of your digital persona based on what you post/share/write/like and where, and who you are connected to. As you post content, Google is going to attempt to assign a value to links within that content based on your Author Rank. I know people have some weird built-in hatred of Klout because THEY DIDN’T OPT IN (whatever, stop crying and definitely don’t waste time “working on your Klout score”) but it’s a pretty good approximation of how I think Google is eventually going to try to assign more value to a link than just “what’s the PageRank of the page this link is posted on and what’s the anchor text they linked it with”.

This will likely be calculated in a similar fashion to the Klout score; what networks do you use, how frequently do you put up content, how often is that content liked/+1’ed/retweeted/shared/commented on/viewed/what the hell ever, who are the people interacting with your content, how authoritative are THEY and about what topics, etc., etc., etc.- there will probably end up being as many factors in the Author Rank algorithm as there are in the main search algorithm when all is said and done. So, there is a real opportunity here to kill both the reputation management and Author Rank birds with one stone. Be forewarned, though, it’s going to take some work. Here’s  my easy bullet-point-program- if you are able to do even some of this stuff, you will build your Author Rank and credibility with the search engines while also dominating the results for “branded searches” on your name.

1. Decide what to call yourself. Are you a Francis, or a Fran, a James or a Jim, a Denise or a Denyse? It matters. What’s your last name? Ladies in particular, I know you love those Facebook profiles with your unmarried AND married names but it confuses the poor algorithm. Pick a name and go with it. For SEO, I mean. :)

2. Buy your domain if you can; I was fairly lucky and was able to get franirwin.com as a domain. I know, I know, exact match domain has been devalued but I don’t think that means it has NO value. Besides, there’s a pride/vanity issue too- this is REPUTATION management, after all.

3. Get a WordPress blog up on that domain and start writing. This is that whole “work” part I was talking about. Aim for once a week in the beginning, you want to give the search engine spiders a reason to come back and sniff out fresh content. Get some text to speech software, spend 15 minutes on your commute or walk or break or smoke or whatever and just dictate some thoughts you are having. Put it out of your head, sit down later and edit it. This is easy, cheap in terms of time and resources, and will allow you to refine your thought process over time.

4. Set up a public Facebook page using your real name or your professional name. Fill it out to completion. Every. Single. Field.

5. Set up a Twitter account using a handle as close to your real name as possible. Set up a custom avatar and background, and link to your blog or Google+ page in your bio.

6. Set up a LinkedIn account using your real name or your professional name. Fill it out to completion. Every. Single. Field.

6. Set up a Google Plus profile using your real name. Connect as many possible accounts as you can to it and fill out as much of your profile as you possibly can. Fill it out to completion. Every. Single. Field. Write it like you’re being announced to a crowded room, and make it public so people can find you. You can always set up a separate, unconnected profile account with a different handle and content on any social media platform for whatever else; this is purely for rep management.

7. Post to Twitter at least 1 time per day, during the week, not necessarily on weekends. Post about things you find on RSS feeds or something interesting or whatever. Spend a half hour a day filling up your Buffer and then it do the work.

8. Post to Google+ twice a week, not just someone else’s link but add some commentary or stimulate some discussion.

9. Same thing on Facebook.

 

Remember when I said it was going to be some work? It is. Don’t post just to post; for example, if anyone actually reads this blAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

anyway if you do read the blog regularly you probably noticed that I went from a very aggressive twice a week schedule to now about once every two weeks. It’s a lot of work coming up with something interesting and worth reading that isn’t just rehashed or warmed-over garbage or second thoughts about someone else’s original thoughts. Don’t dive into this strategy if you aren’t prepared to work for it but if you do you will enjoy the (for now invisible) benefits of Author Rank, and a sweet, sweet SERP.

 

SEO Basics- How to Write Content to Support On- Page Optimization


Copywriters can have a strong influence on increasing the relevance of a website for specific terms by utilizing those keywords in the meta-tags and body content of web pages. Creating sufficient, naturally-written and strategic content can improve a site’s relevance and rankings, increasing the amount of traffic that arrives at the website from the search engines. In this post I’ll provide some very basic advice on what areas of the page can be utilized to improve a page’s relevance for specific terms, and describe things that copywriters should keep in mind when creating or editing web pages. Remember, it’s not just for the User- you have to learn to write for the bots too, which can be a challenge. You’re a professional writer, right? Make those nouns and verbs dance, buddy!

The Impact of Well-Optimized Content

Adding well- written content that’s been optimized for relevant keyword phrases will help your website rank higher for relevant keyword phrases and increase visibility and traffic for other related terms while improving metrics like time on site, bounce rate, and pages per visit.

Meta Title

A page Title not only displays at the top of the browser window, but also appears as the linked text in search results. All major search engines index the Title Tag. In terms of SEO, the Title Tag is considered extremely important in helping the search engines determine the primary topic of the page. Since it is also visible to searchers, the Title tag should also encourage the person to click through to the website. Be succinct; create a page Title that concisely and accurately describes what the page is about. Utilize keywords in the Title that people would use when searching for a page like the one you’re creating. Google displays up to the first 70 characters or less of the page Title, so it’s recommended to keep the Title to 70 characters or less. If the client has a strong brand, consider including their brand name or domain name in the Title tag if there is room left over. The page Title should grab attention, create curiosity, and even evoke emotion to get the customer to click on the Title and visit the site.

Important Note: Having duplicate or near duplicate page Titles across a site has been shown to have the same effect as duplicate content, and can harm a site’s ranking power.

Description Meta Tag

The Description works with the Title to attract prospects. When a prospect performs a search, the results displayed on the SERP are often the Title Tag and the Description Tag. You should spend the same amount of time writing your Title and Description as you would spend on an important ad attracting people to the page. If you don’t include a Description meta-tag, by default most search engines will use the first 30-40 words on the page, which could look very unprofessional and include heading content and/or links- not a good first contact for the User to have with your site.

Be sure to include your focused keyword phrases, but don’t “stuff” or overuse keywords. If the Description meta tag contains the keyword phrase being searched Google will usually display it. If it doesn’t, it will use a snippet from elsewhere on the page. The best Description tags are in the format of a brief paragraph… 2-3 short sentences describing the page, engaging the searcher, and if possible, utilizing important keywords. Try to keep this tag to 155 characters or less to increase the chances that the entire meta-tag will be displayed in the search results.

Keywords

DO NOT USE THE KEYWORDS META TAG. It has no SEO value to the algorithms that matter, and at worst, you will be letting your competitors know exactly what keywords a page is supposed to represent.

Sufficient Content

The first rule for creating content for the search engines is to create sufficient textual content on the page. Google and the other search engines cannot interpret or understand words contained with graphics. The search engines cannot play or understand words within videos. Even the majority of content contained within Flash files- though they are getting better- is useless to help a page rank for certain keywords.

The goal should be to include at least a few paragraphs of naturally-written text that imparts information to the visitor and includes keyword phrases that we want the page to rank for. It would help to identify a unique set of keyword phrases for each page before content is created. Creating and developing content and then plugging in selected keywords may not be the highest and best use of content developing resources.

High-ranking pages in Google, MSN and Yahoo! Search average over 400 words of content. This does not include content within the top header, footer or navigation links; it is the unique content within the main body of the page. To help ensure that an individual page has a reasonable chance of ranking for competitive phrases, a minimum of 400-450 words of content should be written.

Content Structure and Layout

The way content is presented on your pages may or may not help visitors read and absorb the information presented to them. This all depends on how your content is structured and tied together. If your content is clustered together as one whole piece instead of it being separated into smaller paragraphs it may pose a problem with those visitors who scan pages as oppose to reading everything that it says. Scanning pages has been noted to be the preferred method for online readers.

A good approach to writing content on categories and subcategory pages is in the form of bulleted points. If category is linking to subcategories then each bullet point could link into the respected subcategory page with a short description explaining the topic of a page it is linking to. If this is a subcategory page then bullet points can link to some top products listed under that specific subcategory. Sometimes a bullet- point approach can be implemented on the homepage as well where bullet points link to category pages and sometimes even most popular topics or products within a site.

Writing body content in a form of short paragraphs with heading names linking to internal category, subcategory, and product pages is another writing method that also provides SEO value since a page with content is better than a page without it.

Keyword Use within Content

Using variations and permutations of targeted keywords on your pages will help achieve authority for most targeted keyword phrases. To choose keywords for writing purpose you may use Google Wonder Wheel or Google Keyword Tool to research keywords you are interested in ranking for. Other tools are also available online, but sometimes using common sense is the best tool of them all. As long as keywords are used in moderation and your pages make sense to readers an old fashion keyword density approach can also be implemented.

Keyword density describes how often a keyword or phrase is used within the body of the page. For example, a keyword density of 5% means that a keyword is used an average of 5 times for every 100 words on the page. Naturally-written text about a topic tends to have a keyword density for a main topic keyword of approximately 2% to 4%. Stuffing keywords into the content to increase relevance is seen as “spam” and usually hurts rankings. Pages with keyword densities above 10% are almost always removed by Google before too long. Incorporate a keyword phrase into your content naturally, so the text flows.

 

What SEO KPI Do You Track To Show Value To Clients?


Please, for the love of god, if your first instinct was to say to yourself “What is this guy, crazy? Rankings, of course! What else is there?” please, please stick around and read the rest of this post. I’m going to make your life easier! We’ll talk about some more eclectic Key Performance Indicators (KPI) here- everyone already knows about Visits, Visitors, Pages per Visit, Time on Site and Bounce Rate. Wow, just typing that sentence made me yawn! We’ll examine some other ways to show clients wins here.

Rankings- Rankings, to me, are a super problematic KPI. It starts during the sales process- most clients seek out an SEO firm because they want better rankings, and traditionally, the one-sentence answer to “what the hell do SEO’s do” is “we make sites rank higher on Google’s and the other SERPs”. However, rankings are super problematic nowadays- the advent of personalized search means that there really is no such thing as “rankings” any more”. I am really, really downplaying the importance of rankings as anything but a barometer of site health with all of my clients and I recommend you do, too. Also, try to get your sales guys on board with this! Selling “high rankings” is selling about 5% of the value of what SEO’s actually do.


Indexation- How many of the site’s pages are in Google’s index? There’s a concept that my friend, SEO extraordinaire Chris Hart introduced me to, called a site’s “contextual footprint”, and what it means is basically what kind of presence does your brand and its site have on the Web? A big part of this is the number of pages you have indexed, all other things being equal the site with more pages indexed is the site that’s going to “win” the rankings. Interestingly, I was exposed to another indexation phenomenon this week- I have a client that has maybe a few hundred pages on their site, however, if you do a site: search Google has 150,000 URLs in their index. If you’d like to answer this in the comments I’d appreciate it but here’s the question: is it better to let Google think there are 150,000 URLs on the site? Or is it better to re-run a sitemap, and condense all the authority to the pages that actually exist and are authoritative? I’ll give my answer if anyone comments ;)


Site Speed- increasingly important in Google’s algorithm is how fast your site loads- especially on mobile devices. Have you seen the Black Friday numbers yet? Percentages of those shopping on smart phones and tablets is higher than ever- you can bet that the speed of your site is going to continue to be an important factor to marketing moving forward, and providing your clients with recommendations to speed up the site and crawls of the site is an excellent value proposition.


Number of KW sending traffic to the site- I have clients that are 14th for one vanity term and blindly instruct me to solely work on the #1 ranking for that term because it’s a vanity term that their sales guys use- “you should buy from us because we’re #1! Even Google thinks so!” However, they are ignoring the fact that the sites ranking highly for that one vanity term are only getting traffic from a handful of terms while their site is pulling visitors from 35,000 different keywords. If you can show over time that the site is attracting traffic from a more diverse set of search queries, that should be an easy and obvious win!


Traffic vs. Industry Trend- If your client sells “blue widgets” and search volume for “blue widgets” is down 50% over last year, but your client’s organic traffic is only down 25% that is definitely a win. It might take some convincing, but a smart client will realize that! You can check industry trend data with an expensive tool like Hitwise or an inexpensive (meaning free) one like Google Trends.


There are more, but that’s for another post!

Getting Your Business On Google+

There’s been a lot of hubbub around Google+ since they opened the service to Businesses and Brands on November 7th. There have also been a lot of people claiming to have the secret sauce to making an amazing Google+ business page- after a week? However, the information I am about to present here- a companion piece to my “Google Plus for Publishers” post- is straight from the horse’s (Android’s?) mouth.

First, a brief update on the status of the service. Google+ so far has 40 million Users, about 100 days after launch. The “+” button is being shown over 5 billion times a day to Users on over 1 million sites. There’s still quite a ways to go to catch up to Facebook, but clearly the reports of Google+ being D.O.A. are just opportunistic rants from people with something to gain. The way that + ties in with search is absolutely crucial to successful marketing on the Internet moving forward. Google has made the statement that social is a “core human behavior and not a destination”- that’s a pretty clear signal as to the importance of social.

Google states that Google+ allows you to get closer to customers by having conversations with the right people, inspiring existing customers to recommend new customers, and improving ad performance (through the addition of +1 annotations on the SERP) across all initiatives, not just social initiatives. The annotations are the biggest reason I see right now to adopt +1 on all pages on your site as well as Google+, as the personalized annotations have already shown to increase click through rates on both organic and paid listings.

Top global brands that have already jumped on the G+ bandwagon include:

Toyota                  ABC News           Kia                          Dell

Orange                 Piaget                   Macy’s                  Pepsi

Burberry              DC Comics           T Mobile              L’Oreal

NBC News           Amazon               The New York Times

… and the lists goes on. Clearly, big brands, which already enjoy some special treatment on Google, are eager to jump on this one.

Basics- Creating your Page

Create your Page

  1. Log into your Gmail account (your personal GMAIL account!) You must opt in to/join Google+ personally before you can create a page for your business.
  2. Go to the Stream page and click on “Create a Google+ page” on the lower right hand side
  3. Start by picking a category:
    • Local business or place- this is the most specific differentiator of the 5, with options to display a local phone number right on the front of the profile.
    • Product or Brand
    • Company institution or organization
    • Arts entertainment or sports
    • Other
  4.  Fill out and then share the page (if it’s ready for consumption)- then you get the “Congratulations” page.
  5. Start to think creatively first, about how to spice up your page- then use the “Edit Profile” button to get cracking! (check out what Red Bull did with their G+ page for inspiration!)
  6. Add photos, write an introduction and add your organization’s contact info and website info. This is basic identity information your customers will see when they visit the page.
  7. CONNECT YOUR WEBSITE using the “widget configurator”- Google will help you make a badge that will connect your G+ account to your website. The configurator generates code that you copy/paste into your site so that Users see the badge. This is also very important to Google identifying your page as the “official” page! Another added benefit is that Users will be able to add you to their circles using the badge- without needing to click through to the G+ page to do so.
  8. Toggle between you and your businesses’ identity using the pick list that appears under your avatar at the top left hand side of the page to post as either yourself, or the owner of the page. Be careful who you are posting “as”!

Sharing: Build Connections

You can’t add people who haven’t opted in to follow your brand (by adding you to one or more of their Circles) until they add you first. This is a key differentiator between G+ pages for individuals and G+ pages for brands. Once they have added you, ask them what circle they should be in! From there, you can segment them by demographic into circles that you can then produce custom content for. Want a promotion to go out, but only to women? That’s your “Female customers” circle! Want to have a hangout just with guys who ride mountain bikes? Make a circle for that demographic! G+ makes it really easy to get targeted content in front of a highly differentiated audience.

Hangouts:

If you haven’t used a Hangout yet, it’s pretty neat. Basically, it’s a video chat room for up to ten people who have webcams and mics, whereby whoever is talking gets focus in the main window. This allows you to have Hangouts to build a more personal relationship with your customers. You can even limit a particular hangout to a particular circle, to keep the marketing message segmented and targeted to the highest degree.

Promotion: Grow your Audience

  1. “Spread the word”- on the right hand side of the screen that lets you create a message to say hello to the world! Don’t worry about launching with too little content, the content will come.
  2. Add the badge and button to your site so that people are directly connected to G+ through your site and vice versa.
  3. Direct Connect- Use Direct Connect to verify ownership of the official page and improve discoverability by making yours the “official” profile when Users use the + operator. This will allow Users using Search to bypass the search results entirely and be landed right on your site.
  4. ADD THE PLUS ONE BUTTON TO YOUR SITE! +1 annotations are public and drastically increase CTRs. Please see my other post on how to leverage Google +1 on your site for more information.

Google is aiming to make Google Plus the central identity for your brand, with all the social signals (Plus ones) from connected properties ensuring that all the social collateral you’ve built is served to the User when it’s most valuable- on the SERP. For that reason, it’s important to cross-promote and get the word out to fellow employees and friends about the existence of the page.

Tracking: Using the Data

Google Analytics will add segmentation data in the future that will allow you to see data on content that has +1 annotations from associated Users, content that has the generic +1 annotation, and content that has no annotation. Coming soon! Google Ripples will also allow you to see how your content spreads, who the key influencers are, and who they influence. It’s a whole new layer of social data to incorporate and we’ll all have to learn how to best do so.

Common G+ Questions

Can there be multiple administrators on a Google+ page? Multi-admin capability is coming by the end of the year, “transfer ownership” functionality will come with it.

If I choose the wrong category which happens? It’s no big deal…except for “Local”. Only choose that if the focus of your business is a specific service area.

What if you have a franchise with many locations? Start small, fewer pages are better for now- it’s no big deal to set up different pages for different SBUs…eventually Google wants you to have one global identity and use Circles to reach customers in different locales. Err on the side of global creation, but Google might not ever be able to stitch thousands of them into one unique identity.

What’s the relationship between Plus and Places pages? Places and Plus pages are completely different products for now, but should be cross linked.

Can we put messages out to people who haven’t Circled us? You can’t push a message to someone who hasn’t circled you yet but once they have that’s essentially an opt-in to their message so that’s why they do it.

Can hangouts ever go bigger, like crowdcasting? They are limited to just 10 people for now but eventually an “on air” tool might become available.

How do I get my page verified?

  1. Add a badge to your site
  2. Have the rel=publisher code on the pages.

The “verify” checkmark is only in place for spam/abuse reasons. Google is reaching out to brands that are being impersonated or abused (not just one-off satire pages, but widespread abuse) to get them verified. Google decides who gets verified.

Circle limits are 5,000 today but someday it will be bigger.

Pages go live immediately but are not very discoverable at the outset as they don’t have much content.

Can you screen share with hangouts? Only with 3rd party technology, it’s not native to G+ right now

Can you have more than one G+ page with your account? Yes, the current limit is about 20 right now, but it will grow with the advent of multi user support.

+1’s do not affect quality score at the time being but +1’s on domains will affect +1’s on ads in terms of CTR and performance.

Can I restrict a hangout to a certain circle?  Yes, you can have a hangout with just that circle; it’s an option when you Start the hangout.

Google+ Pro Tips

  • LINK YOUR G+ Page to your AdWords Campaign and site!
  • Rich posts work best- include media in the form of images or video.
  • Sign your posts! Put a face on your brand.
  • Ask your community what Circle they want to be in.
  • Make sure to disable comments and re-sharing before you post sensitive topics.
  • Cross promote on other channels; email, social and offline.
  • Share your page! Encourage co-workers to do the same.
  • Use Google+ search to find out what people are saying about your brand.
  • Encourage customers to use branded and non branded hashtags.
  • Make sure you track how +1’s are affecting your AdWords performance.
  • Be flexible and adapt!

Twitter, Buffer and Patterns of Attention

I’ve been a bad digital marketer, I must confess. Though I have been working on SEO initiatives for clients for nearly 4 years, I only recently started using Twitter to try to do some proactive reputation management, and ensure that the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) show the picture I want to show when someone Google searches my name. I’ve been using Twitter to run social media campaigns for clients for years- even before we had any analytics at all and had to guess at the ROI of social media- but just never took the plunge personally, until recently. I’ve been using Twitter with a nice little free app/Chrome extension called Buffer (http://www.bufferapp.com) which allows you to trickle out your tweets in well, a buffer, so that you don’t bomb your followers with 15 links back to back in their Tweet streams, as you read your RSS feeds over coffee.  The nice thing about Buffer is that you also get statistics about how many times your links were clicked and re-tweeted- this got me to thinking about analyzing some Twitter data to see what effect Tweeting on different days of the week, at different times of day, using different categories and hash tags and personalizing my Tweets would have. The data is interesting and a little surprising, too.

First, here’s a little background about how I conducted this (admittedly non-scientific) test. Here’s my Twitter biography:

SEO Account Manager @WebMetro, where I work to build value for clients through Internet Marketing. I’m also a Daddy, Disneyphile, WWE fan and avid PC gamer. http://franirwin.com

So, this is definitely a public, promotional Twitter account and I watch what I say on here. Very seldom will I curse, I’m quick to thank people for re-tweets, and I keep things industry/work related and squeaky clean. The main reason I have this account is to drive traffic to my blog and also maintain an active social media presence for services like Klout, which gives me cool perks for sharing my opinion, and of course, just to keep up with the news for myself! I frequently am asked “how do you SEO’s keep up with everything that’s going on, especially with Google changing the algorithm so frequently”? The answer is, with Twitter and with a good RSS reader (Google Reader, in fact).

The period of time we’ll analyze runs from September 1, 2011 through September 30, 2011. Now, sometimes, I will actually use the Twitter interface to manually tweet about things and send messages- those types of interactions aren’t covered here. This piece refers solely to tweets scheduled with bufferapp to go out during business hours on weekdays. I do this purposefully- Tweeting is not something I want to do full time or even in my free time; so I have a pattern set up with Buffer to start tweeting at 5 AM PST- this is for my West Coast followers, so they have Tweets to read as they come in to work- and ending at a little after 5 PM PST, at the end of my workday. I tweet approximately once an hour, with a higher concentration around the beginning, middle, and end of the day. Sometimes, I will be at home reading something that seems worth Tweeting but, if it seems like it will “keep” to the next scheduled Buffer trickle time, I will just add it to my buffer, which has a max capacity of 10 scheduled Tweets. I’m too cheap to pop for the full version J (Actually, the free version works just fine for me; though you may want to pay the very inexpensive fee to get unlimited space in your buffer.

I mainly tweet about SEO related stuff, lots of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Klout posts, with some personal stuff about my hobbies- namely going to Disneyland and playing PC video games- sprinkled in. It’s about 90% “professional” Tweets though- I am mainly cultivating others’ content. I try very hard not to put things out there that I’ve already seen- for that reason, I’m always looking for the next obscure RSS feed loaded with great information to source. I don’t have a lot of followers, but I did gain about a 30% increase for the time period I’m discussing here.

Let’s summarize my Tweet habits, shall we? First, I sorted my posts as granularly as I could without being ridiculous, into the following categories (followed by the number of Tweets and total % of Tweets for the topic, in September):

Google

44

18.26%

Blog

3

1.24%

SEO

33

13.69%

Foursquare

3

1.24%

Industry News

27

11.20%

Hulu

3

1.24%

FaceBook

21

8.71%

Netflix

3

1.24%

Gaming

12

4.98%

Amazon

2

0.83%

Social Media

11

4.56%

Yahoo

2

0.83%

Twitter

11

4.56%

Advertising

1

0.41%

Electronic marketing

10

4.15%

Bing

1

0.41%

Self-Promotional

10

4.15%

Business

1

0.41%

Personal Interest

8

3.32%

Microsoft

1

0.41%

YouTube

7

2.90%

Nestle

1

0.41%

Technology

6

2.49%

Panda

1

0.41%

Video

5

2.07%

Politics

1

0.41%

Deal

4

1.66%

Sports

1

0.41%

Groupon

4

1.66%

We’re looking at a pool of 241 Tweets that got a total of 907 clicks and 3 re-tweets, an average of 3.73 clicks per Tweet and about a 1% re-tweet percentage. The raw numbers themselves don’t look great, but we’re going to dive a little bit deeper and look at what posts scored “applause”, meaning they somehow got attention from my followers beyond my adding them to my Twitter. I’m glad to see that most of my posts are on topic, with “Google”, “SEO”, and “Industry News” speaking for 42% of my total Tweets. Looks like I’m doing a good job, staying on topic.

For the rest of this post, Clicks will be the main metric by which I measure engagement. I’m making the assumption that if someone clicks a link, they are interested in what lives behind it. Here are the times when the most clicked Tweets were…tweeted:

2:20 PM

92

5:11 AM

91

11:42 AM

90

4:17 PM

89

5:09 PM

58

7:05 AM

49

12:47 PM

44

1:05 PM

33

5:11 AM

33

9:12 AM

16

Remember when looking at these numbers that I am on the West Coast of the USA and a lot of my followers who actually KNOW me personally are on the East Coast. There doesn’t appear to be much rhyme or reason to correlating the time of the post with its popularity, but we can see that I’m getting my heaviest concentration of clicks in the times around the beginning and end of work, and lunch breaks. This makes sense on its face because that’s when most people have some time to spare for social media, running down their Twitter stream in the elevator on the way to lunch or while standing in line for a latte. I have timed my Tweets specifically to try and hit these lulls in activity, and that’s also why I don’t Tweet on weekends. High rates of adoption aside, I just don’t know a lot of people that turn to Twitter to kill 5 minutes; they are using Facebook or playing a game during most of those times.

Next up, let’s look at personalization. In other words, does it make a difference if I add a personalization to the Tweet, or is the page Title and bit.ly link (which is what buffer tweets when you use the Chrome extension if you don’t modify it) enough? Basically, are my followers following my content or my comments? Let’s take a look at the most clicked tweets again:

Personalized?

# of clicks?

NO

92

NO

91

NO

90

NO

89

NO

58

NO

49

NO

44

NO

33

NO

33

NO

16

At least in my stream, it doesn’t matter if I add a witty bon mot or comment, or answer the question in the headline- my Followers want to read the content, not my take on it. In fact, here are the numbers for all of my personalized Tweets:

Personalized?

# of clicks?

YES

5

YES

5

YES

3

YES

2

YES

2

YES

1

Yes

1

YES

1

YES

Yes

Yes

Yes

YES

Yes

YES

Yes

YES

Yes

That’s…discouraging. My followers seem to prefer robotic re-tweets of the content that interests me. I don’t blame them, I get up from my desk for 5 minutes to get coffee and when I get back there are sometimes as many as 30 new Tweets in my stream. I’m not going to read all of those and it seems unreasonable to expect my followers to.

Now, let’s move on to days of the week. Here’s the breakdown by Day of the week, number of Tweets, and number of Clicks:

Tweets

Clicks

Ratio

Saturday

2

2

1.00

Friday

57

90

0.63

Sunday

2

5

0.40

Thursday

54

215

0.25

Tuesday

41

177

0.23

Monday

37

186

0.20

Wednesday

44

232

0.19

We have to take this data with a grain of salt as I really don’t tweet on weekends, but if we toss Saturday and Sunday out as having too small a sample size, it seems that Friday is the best time for me to Tweet something and get it clicked- this probably correlates with most offices’ relaxed Friday atmosphere, and the fact that people usually have more time to devote to secondary activities like social media as the week winds down. I also seem to Tweet more on Fridays, probably for the same reasons. Wednesday looks to be the worst day for me to Tweet if I want my message to resonate- maybe due to stress from the mid-week crush people just don’t have time for Twitter?

Next, I wanted to see if my followers are picking up the messaging I am putting out there. To check that, I will compare the number of clicks with the number of “on-topic” Tweets- that is, Tweets where I speak specifically about my professional area of expertise and where a stranger might be compelled to follow me, were they to see those Tweets.

Posts Clicks Ratio
Industry News

27

70

0.39

SEO

33

86

0.38

Facebook

21

86

0.24

Google

44

200

0.22

Total

125

442

0.31

 

So for Tweets that I am actively trying to get clicks for, namely, the self-declared topic of my Twitter, I have about a 30% click rate which I feel is very good. However, this is right on pace with the overall click rates on my general pool of Tweets, so I can’t (as much as I’d like to) attribute this to being an outgrowth of my fabulous Twitter content curation skills.

Next up, hash tags. I want to ask two questions here about hash tags: does using a hash tag make a difference in your click through rate, and which hash tags get the best click through rates? (I have an inkling on the answer to the second question but we’ll let the number play out and then I’ll make an observation later. Of the 241 Tweets I made in September, 176 of them or 73% contained at least one hash tag. Those tweets resulted in 556 clicks, whereas the posts without hash tags resulted in 351 clicks. That’s a rate of 2.3 clicks per Tweet, compared to 5.4 clicks without a hash tag. It seems that not using a hash tag will actually result in a higher click through rate!

Facebook- 20 Tweets resulting in 86 clicks

Google- 42 Tweets resulting in 94 clicks

SEO- 31 Tweets resulting in 73 clicks

Twitter- 8 Tweets resulting in 183 clicks

The takeaway here is that if you’re posting information about Twitter, on Twitter- you’ve got a highly engaged audience! Social Media topics do well on Twitter because of the service’s high rates of adoption among those that live and breathe the topic. Speaking of Social Media topics on Twitter…


Hey, that’s not cool! At least 30 of my followers liked my Tweet well enough to click on it twice, but not one single re-tweet?!?! I’d be willing to bet that at least a few of them simply copy/pasted into their own Tweet stream- but savvy social media Users, like the ones that would click on a link about Klout, appear to be pretty stingy with the re-tweet love! This spotlights one of the problems with Twitter- people aren’t as altruistic as they tell you you should be. I will re-tweet things that I think are particularly funny or amusing, or that I haven’t already seen before- but I’m generally not LOOKING for things to re-tweet, either. It’s sort of like no-following a link on a page- sure, the link out doesn’t hurt anyone, but why give away my expertise/time/attention currency for free? Next time I get a similar topic, I’ll try an experiment- I’ll put the same tweet out twice, once with “PLEASE RT” added to see if that makes a difference in people’s generosity.

According to my (admittedly limited in scope) research, my best chance for getting a Tweet clicked is to post non-personalized Tweets that are specifically about Internet Marketing industry news, with no hash tags after lunch on Fridays.  What do your Twitter statistics look like, and what do they tell you?