Monthly Archives: November 2009

Building Links for Bing

It’s easy for businesses to get caught up in Google’s expectations for their sites, when trying to market through search. That’s certainly a wise thing to do, considering Google dominates the search market by a huge margin. Still, there are other search engines that people are using, and it is also wise to make sure your site is performing to the best of its ability in those too.

I’m obviously talking about Yahoo and Bing, but Yahoo’s share is declining, while Bing’s is gaining. Furthermore, if the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo goes through, Bing search will be talking over Yahoo anyway.

Do you take Bing into account when optimizing your site? Comment here.

Rick DeJarnette We don’t hear as much about what Bing wants out of a site for rankings, but Rick DeJarnette of Bing Webmaster Center has shared some dos and don’ts of link-building for Bing. Not surprisingly, a lot of his advice for honoring Bing’s policy, does not differ too much from advice that Google would give you. It is, however, still always nice to see how they feel, just to clear up any possible confusion.

Like Google, Bing places great emphasis on quality links to determine its rankings. “Just don’t make the mistake of believing it will result in instant gratification. Successful link building efforts require a long-term commitment, not an overnight or turnkey solution,” says DeJarnette. “You need to continually invest in link building efforts with creativity and time.”

What Not To Do

DeJarnette shared a list of things that you should avoid in your link building efforts, if it is a good Bing ranking that you are after. Here is what Bing says will get your site reviewed more closely by staff:

1. The number of inbound links suddenly increases by orders of magnitude in a short period of time

2. Many inbound links coming from irrelevant blog comments and/or from unrelated sites

3. Using hidden links in your pages

4. Receiving inbound links from paid link farms, link exchanges, or known “bad neighborhoods” on the Web

5. Linking out to known web spam sites

“When probable manipulation is detected, a spam rank factor is applied to a site, depending upon the type and severity of the infraction,” says DeJarnette. “If the spam rating is high, a site can be penalized with a lowered rank. If the violations are egregious, a site can be temporarily or even permanently purged from the index.”

What To Do

DeJarnette also shared some tips for getting more quality links. Following are Bing’s tips for effective link building (paraphrased):

1. Develop your site as a business brand and brand it consistently

2. Find relevant industry experts, product reviewers, bloggers, and media folk, and make sure they’re aware of your site/content

3. Publish concise, informative press releases online

4. Publish expert articles to online article directories

5. Participate in relevant conversations on blogs/forums, referring back to your site’s content when applicable

6. Use social networks to connect to industry influencers (make sure you have links to your site in your profiles)

7. Create an email newsletter with notifications of new content

8. Launch a blog/forum on your site

9. Participate in relevant industry associations and especially in their online forums
  
10. Strive to become a trusted expert voice for your industry, while promoting your site

Most of the stuff DeJarnette shared is nothing any savvy search marketer is not already aware of. That said, there are clearly plenty of online (and offline for that matter) businesses out there that don’t have savvy search marketers on the payroll. It can be quite helpful when a search engine itself lays out what to do and what not to do to help webmasters get better rankings.

Courtesy of WebProNews.

Creating Links: How to add “link bait”

For years now, people have been buzzing about social media and the opportunity it provides to marketers to drive tons of traffic, brand awareness, conversions, and — most importantly — links. Even Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam, has gone on record numerous times praising social media as a great opportunity to get links in a pure and natural way.

It’s no secret that so-called “link bait” gets a lot of natural quality inbound links, and that social media has the ability to garner massive visibility for your brand and its content. But just knowing that doesn’t mean it is easy to succeed with any link bait you create.

Creating a piece of link bait that will succeed in social media and score lots of links from authoritative sites takes a lot of work and experience. Following these seven tips will help you get started. Before you know it, you’ll be creating kick-ass pieces of link bait that will improve your chances at succeeding in social media, while garnering tons of high-quality, natural links.

Tip 1

Make sure your site is worthy of being linked to.

Believe it or not, people do care about how your site looks. The way it is designed, the effort you put into the layout, and whether it looks current — all these things say a lot about your company. No one wants to link to a site they think lacks quality. After all, linking is a sort of recommendation for that site.

So, if you want people to link to your brand’s site, make sure your site is:

  • Up to date: Use coding and design elements that make you look current and contemporary.
  • Focused: Don’t have a bunch of ads in the content area or distracting banners.
  • Polite: Don’t have pop-up ads, pop-under ads, audio ads, or offers that interrupt or distract people from viewing your content.

Of course, many business models won’t allow you to strip away all attempts to convert a user, so you may need to implement these changes for only the individual pieces of link bait you create.

When I first launched one of my side project sites, it had a basic default WordPress theme. I frequently noticed that when I would break a news story that would go viral, high-level authority sites would omit the proper credit link identifying my site as the source for the article.

It wasn’t until I re-evaluated the site and decided to invest in a custom, quality design that the good links really started rolling in. Now I get links from Wired, CNET, The Guardian, and many other highly authoritative sites.

Bottom line: How can you expect someone to take your website seriously if you don’t?

Tip 2

Make your link bait worthy of a link.

This seems like a no brainer, but you would be amazed at how many companies create and push mediocre pieces of link bait that really don’t deserve any links or success at all.

Just because you write a list explaining “10 ways to save on your taxes” doesn’t mean your content is any different or better than the 200 other tax articles people write (or repurpose) at the beginning of each tax season.

You need to make sure your content is:

  • Current: Think about any current events or news stories when writing your link bait. See if there is anything you can reference or apply your concept to that might help it relate to current discussions.
  • Unique: Try to find at least a few angles to your link bait that is unique. This ensures it is different from all the other articles on the same general topic.
  • Comprehensive: This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when writing link bait. You need to make sure your content is comprehensive and doesn’t leave people with unanswered questions or feeling like they took nothing away from the experience.
Tips 3 and 4 
Be visual and easy to read.

Of course you want people to read your content, but have you ever thought about making your content easy to read and digest?

  • Break up your content: When readers see a big block of content, they are often intimidated. They feel they must read an entire paragraph within one breath. Break up your content and make it easy to digest, even when it is not strictly required.
  • Choose the right font type and size: This starts to delve into personal opinion, but many times I come across articles where the font type and size has left me not wanting to read the content. Make sure your font is easy to read and inviting.
  • Be visual: Add images to your content to help drive your message. Everyone likes pictures, and they can make your content seem more inviting and exciting. Video can also be a great addition to an article.

Always go one step further.

Whenever you think your link bait is good, take it one step further. These days “good content” is really not good enough. To distinguish yourself from the thousands of good articles pushed in social media every day, you need really great content.

Once you feel your link bait is finished, review it one last time and consider whether there is any other aspect you can add to it. Look for a few more references, a related story or aspect, or any associated images and/or videos to add that would improve your existing content.

If you challenge yourself, you can always find at least one way to make your link bait a little better. In the end, that final touch can be the difference between a popular piece of content and a largely ignored piece of content. The former will be the one that scores all those quality links you want.

Tips 5 and 6

Be viral — really viral.

A lot of people get so caught up in their product that they forget what it means to go viral. Going viral with a piece of link bait is when you have everyone interested — even when they typically would not be interested in the topic you are pushing.

For example, interest in urinals is not widespread. However, if you were to write an article about the craziest urinals around the world, then almost anyone would be interested in taking a look.

So when you’re thinking about your link bait, try to think about how you can appeal to the broadest audience of people on the web and not just your particular niche.

Plan your campaign.

Each social community is a little different than the next, so make sure you do some research and consider the trends of the users in the social communities in which you want to succeed. You don’t really want to put Apple down on a site like Digg, where users tend to be Apple fans. So when considering your link bait topic, ask yourself these questions about the social community you want to succeed in:

  • What position do the users take on your specific topic? Are they typically for or against it? This will help you pick the right tone for your writing.
  • Is there a category that is lacking quality submissions? This might present an opportunity to write content around that category to increase your chance of success.
  • Has anyone done a similar article recently? If so, you might want to consider a different topic, since most users do not like to see the same general content again and again. There are only so many articles on how Windows 7 is better than Vista that someone is willing to read and support.
Tip 7
Make your link bait easy to spread and link to.

People love to share and tell others about great content. However, most people’s time is becoming more and more limited. Between sites like Facebook and Twitter, reading emails, and checking their favorite sites, online time is precious — don’t make it hard for someone to share your content.

Make sure you have:

  • A good title: Many times people have only enough space to share your link and the article title. So make the title descriptive and as short as possible. Don’t leave people trying to figure out the best way to describe the link they are sharing, as they will often give up. 
  • A good description: Having a good, yet short, paragraph near the beginning of your content will help people who want to submit your article or share it in other social communities. It can also help when it comes time for someone to link to your content through a quote on their own article or site.
  • A share button: It is a good idea to provide your visitors with the option to share your content on their favorite social community. I would avoid having too many buttons on your site and just include the ones that your visitors are most likely to use. 

Successful social media link bait is not always easy to create, but these seven tips should get you on the right track to churning out high-quality, link-worthy content. Just remember: The results of even one successful campaign can make it all worthwhile.

Courtesy of IMediaConnection.

Search = Social Media

All of the search engines are rushing to incorporate more social media elements into their interfaces. Examples of this are evident in things like Google and Bing’s deals with Twitter and Facebook. You can see it in Yahoo’s new Twitter tab for news results. You can see it in Google’s Social Search lab. Really you can see it in everyday search results.

Do you consider a social presence an important element to your search campaign? Discuss here.

A lot of Internet users spend a great deal of their time socializing or using social media sites in one way or another, whether that is to connect with others or simply to obtain information. Information is a key component of social media that often takes a backseat to communication in discussion of social media tools.

The fact of the matter is that more and more people are getting more and more of their information from social sites. That could be in the form of following a news publication on Twitter, following company updates on a blog or a Facebook page, or something as simple as a friend sharing a link.

Given that people are getting more info from social media sites, of course search engines want a piece of that, because their whole reason for existence is naturally to help users find what they are looking for on the web.

So, it stands to reason that if you want people to find information that you are producing, it can help a great deal to publish information and participate in conversations on social media sites. Never mind that users of those particular sites will have access to it. The general public will as well by way of search, regardless of whether or not they are a part of any particular community.

In an interview with WebProNews, Vanessa Fox, who used to work for Google, talked about reasons that businesses should be thinking about social media with regards to search. It’s about visibility. If you are having discussions out there about relevant topics, they could appear in search results not only in real-time search, but further down the road as well.

In other words, if you have a conversation with a peer on Twitter about some topic related to your niche, there is a good chance the resulting tweets of that conversation could appear in search results for that topic on Google, even a year from now, if that tweet happens to be relevant enough. That’s just an example (note: it’s hard to say at this point, just how tweets will impact search once the Google-Twitter deal starts showing results).

There are a variety of ways in which a social campaign can contribute to your performance in search engines, regardless of what these recent deals might produce. Like Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing recently discussed with WebProNews, you can optimize your social content.

The web went blog crazy a few years back. Marketers found out that blogs were great for achieving search engine visibility because of the content and links that can come from them. It’s not that different with social media now. The web has largely moved into a social media-heavy phase, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Search engines obviously know this and care about it.

As Fox says in her interview, it’s getting to the point where more businesses are starting to realize that they need to be involved with social media. However, surveys still frequently suggest that many are reluctant, and even if they do engage to some extent, they are still holding back, and not reaching the potential they could be.

You know search is important to marketing on the web. Really, it’s important to marketing, period. If you operate on the web or off, your customers are on still online, as Fox noted. Social media is growing increasingly important to search. And search is only one aspect of online marketing. There are many more benefits to social media than that.

How important is social media to search?  Let us know your thoughts!

Courtesy of WebProNews.