Internal Linking Strategies For Blogs

Okay, half of my friends and family already checked out because the title involves search engine optimization. That's okay. Those of you willing and brave enough to continue, let's get on with it. 

As a search marketer, one of the key strategies I employ in on-site optimization includes internal linking strategy. Here's a quick summary of how it works, from the beginning: 

Step 1: Keyword Research

Step 2: META Tag Optimization

Step 3: Content and Header Tag Revisions

Step 4: Internal Linking 

Step 5: External Linking 

If you want an explanation of these basic concepts, visit any one of a hundred SEO blogs and search for these terms. Or, you can wait for a few weeks and I will begin recovering all the SEO basics on another blog which I will announce soon. For now, I'm only covering Step #4 as it applies to a blog. 

The thought occurred to me months ago after I had written a blog post about how my wife loves the affordable women's clothing at Papaya Clothing Store in the Grapevine Mills Mall. Actually, it was also after my most popular post was written on the Papaya Clothing website. That second post, written in April 2007 (only three months ago), received more than 1,000 visitors the first month simply by ranking at the bottom of the first page on Google for "Papaya Clothing". After I saw that jump in my analytics, I decided to test something out. I wrote two more blog posts referencing Papaya and linked back to that second post from each of them. My ranking jumped from #8 or #9 to #2 within a couple weeks.

Granted, many phrases are more competitive and getting solid results take much more work. But the results I saw were phenomenal. I now receive more than 13k visitors per month just reading my few posts about Papaya Clothing. It's ridiculous. Of course, it really helps that the company has taken more than a year to build a website and has only an unlaunched tester site to show for the time and money lost. 

My point is that I'd never paid much attention to internal linking within my own blogs. I'm all over the map with my blogging, and it just never occurred to me until then that it could be very useful to use some of the same principles for a blog that I use on static websites. It's the visual blog style that probably kept me from thinking about it. I mean, even when I look at my own home page, I only see the most recent 10 posts or so. Everything prior to that is filed in Archives and fades from view.

Blog categories are an excellent way to keep tabs on what you've written before. Of course, you can always do a site search if you've incorporated search functionality. So here's the easiest way to go about building internal links on your site:

Rule #1 – When writing a new post, search your own blog for references to the same subject or keywords. Copy those specific post URLs and use them in hyperlinks on the new post.

Rule #2 – As an alternative, determine which category your new post falls under and search that category's archives for pages to link to in your new post.  

There you have it. Basic. Simple. Link to your own posts. I'll give more specific advice on internal blog linking in the new blog which will be announced soon.  

The Need for Reputation Management Increases Across the Web

As I mentioned previously in ReputationAdvisor.com, the "web 2.0" space (sorry Nathan – I know how much you love that term) has grown and matured to the point that the what is written or posted on the Internet can make or break a company's profitability. Reputation was a priceless commodity back in 1950s small town America. Then cities expanded and companies branched out and a bad rep here or there still allowed for success in other towns or regions.

The consumer had no way to expose a fraud or a bad deal to the masses. Newspapers, books, and radio were the primary methods of communicating to the public. Television obviously took over as the most popular mass media communications method, but the stations were run by the rich minority, leaving the public with little more than gossip and petitions to spread the word of malpractice. 

The Internet levels the playing field once and for all. Even the most average person can create a blog or join a forum and post their experiences and opinions of the various businesses they've encountered. We live in an unprecedented age of consumer power. A timely message delivered in the right place online by a single consumer can literally cost a business millions of dollars in sales and reputation repair. 

The Internet also allows for corporations to flood the space with positive messages and claims to good intentions and benevolent deeds. Any business willing to dedicate some time and money can seriously spin their online image in any way they see fit.

The Web is the battlefield, and some corporations are just waking up to the realization that cyber slander can destroy their profits. I'm thinking of one small to mid-sized oil and gas company in particular. A disgruntled ex-salesperson posted a slanderous accusation against the company on a very influential investor forum. This forum was already crooked to begin with, since the forum owner propagated false accusations against similar oil and gas companies in order to win the confidence of the seeking investor. The owner would then direct the disillusioned investor toward an "honest" organization which he coincidentally benefited from. 

This is a black hat marketing method which earns no respect from me. This forum abuses the power of its influence to slander others in order to keep the spoils. But this oil and gas company now finds itself in a dilemma: what do we do about these horrible things which our ex-employees and competitors are saying about us?

That is the million dollar question (or multi-million dollar, as I've seen businesses drop like flies). Bad online reputation may not end your business, but it can undo years of costly progress.

If you and your business have already suffered loss from bad online reputation, there is no time to wait. Contact a reputation management professional immediately. 

If your business is expanding on the Web, now is the time to put a campaign into place that will protect your reputation in the future. Unsatisfied customers are inevitable. You can't please everyone all the time. But you can proactively protect your business from bad press that could cripple your business. 

For more information about protecting your good name on the Web, contact me at daniel@culturefeast.com.  

Using Traditional Media to Educate the Masses About Search Marketing

time to rethinkRand posted an SEOMoz comment this morning, with some illustrations of really underhanded advertising for search marketing. He then asked a question I have asked myself for months:

“So what are we to do, fellow SEOs? After 10 years of attempting to educate the outside world, is it time to give up the game and just accept the fact that SEO will always have negative, inaccurate associations and a shroud of mystery? Or… are there new approaches that could be taken to better inform a clearly curious and often desperate public?”

As influential as Google and Amazon have been in Internet history, they both made an effort to market themselves via television, radio, film, and print. And the core principal at work then is the same now: if you want to educate or influence the masses, reach them where they live.

You can’t educate the masses with an SEO blog. Trust me, I have dozens of friends and acquaintances who use MySpace and visit my blog, but they hate it when I write anything SEO related.

In order to educate the public, you have to entertain them at the same time. Someone needs to spearhead this. Let’s look at the two easiest ways to educate the public:

1. Find a budding movie scriptwriter and write a main character to be an SEO. Without overtly preaching about the industry, teach the public about SEO through the comments and experiences of the character. This is an extremely powerful (and expensive) method.

2. Get the financial backing to create some infomercials. Make them cool (think Mac & PC), funny (Sonic DriveThru commercials), or edgy (TRUTH campaign). Create 5-10 commercials, each that covers one topic or exposes one unethical practice. Let each one air for a month or two before moving on to the next.

Both of these ideas are ridiculously expensive. But how did Amazon brand itself? Traditional media. We should give Amazon a lot of credit for building the Internet user base. Millions of people discovered for the first time that they could purchase items online, and the rest was history. But it took reaching them through the mediums they use most.

Internet use is definitely on the rise. In the future, I expect most Americans with Internet access will have a website of some sort. eBusiness will continue to rise. Search marketing is a vital aspect of eCommerce. It’s unavoidable.

Are commercial spots and movie appearances pipe dreams? Maybe. But someone will do it someday, and they will become instant experts in the minds of millions. If ever there was an open opportunity to make a name for one’s self in search marketing, this is it. Throw a few million at it and watch what happens. Of course, once the rabbit is out of the hat, expect to see the unethical marketers create 30 minute infomercials on late night television promising millions if you create an instant SEO shop or use their services.

There will be abuse of every inspiration. The only way to combat that abuse may be to get enough SEO professionals to band together to support this ad campaign that the space is flooded with support and verification.

Thoughts?

2 Mistakes Beginners Make When Building A Website

Today, we’re talking about online user experience. Granted, this is the type of post that belongs on my Reputation Management blog, so I’ll be brief and expand on it there later. It’s still worth my time to cover these topics here or on MySpace because those are the places where my Internet illiterate friends hang out, and they represent the types of people who will “discover” the amazing opportunities made available by the Web, and without some kind of help they’ll throw up the ugliest or most unusable site you can imagine.

Here are the 2 biggest mistakes people make when designing and developing their first website:

1. FLASH – I don’t care how cool FLASH looks, designing your entire site in FLASH is a HORRIBLE idea. Don’t do it! I don’t care about how cool it looks, it’s a waste of your marketing dollars. Google and Yahoo! will not be able to index your site’s pages, which means you will get crap for search engine results. And in case you didn’t already know, the number one way people locate websites is by searching Google or Yahoo!. You absolutely cannot ignore this fact and must build your site to meet the standards of “crawlable” site.

2. Content Overload – No matter what you’ve seen from circa 1997 web designs, it does not help your website or company to place thousands of words on a single page. It’s a waste. Limit each page of information to 300-400 words. If you have that much more to say on a subject, think a little more strategically and organize your points so you can turn that one massive page into multiple, easy-to-digest pages. On the flip side, it’s equally unhelpful to have next to nothing on each page. If writing isn’t your strength, sub out the work to a professional copywriter (hmmm…. I wonder who?).
In EVERY situation, research what will improve online user experience for your targeted readers. There is tons of information out there to help you do it right the first time. You can always call me if you want to connect with someone offering professional design and SEO.

Once you’ve been around the SEO industry for awhile, you’ll get comfortable with the basic requirements of site design, development, and copywriting. Until then, feel free to shoot me your questions and I’ll be happy to help out.

How I Became a Copywriter: Part One

Since Karen asked in a comment to a previous CultureFeast post, I’m going to give you the story. I worked for two years at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. It was a blessing when it started. It paid more than I had ever made before. I felt very fortunate. Over the months that followed, I grew discontent with the same old routine every day. The office was nice. I had the pleasure of working with more than 140 people during that time, and I enjoyed conversations with many of them. But the work wasn’t my thing, and it felt like a dead end.

My poor wife put up with daily complaining and venting after work. I was so upset because I felt trapped with no way out. After nearly two years, I began to feel hopeless about the future.

A family friend, Matthew Phillips, had graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas and was working as a web designer for an Internet marketing / SEO company in Dallas. We won’t mention the company’s name (but it rhymes with “Munch”) because the CEO turned out to be shady as hell. Everyone else was decent, and they all ended up going their separate ways, joining or forming other Web marketing and SEO companies in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex.

Matt knew that I graduated with a BA in English and loved to write, and he kept telling me that I should try copywriting for an SEO firm. He told me it was all fluff anyway, and that I didn’t have to be an expert to get the job done. I was intimidated by the idea, wondering how I could convince someone to take a chance on me, a guy with no professional writing experience.

Matt left that company and joined Reset Media, a small web marketing and media company in Addison. Through Matt, I met Scott Terrell, the creative director. He told me about several projects the company was working on that might involve quite a bit of copywriting, but he wanted to test me out on another project first. So Scott, Matt, and I met at a Starbucks in Addison and they pitched me the vision for Reset Media. The goal was to write sales sheets, white papers, and new website copy for the company. I taped the conversation so I wouldn’t miss a thing and brainstormed with them for a couple of hours about the identity and brand Reset Media would put forth.

I drove home excited, feeling for the first time that I was a part of something creative. I labored for several weeks after hours on this project. It didn’t take long to wear out, though. Working 40 hours per week at a soul-draining job and then trying to be creative for a few hours each night was difficult. My wife could see how hard it was on me, and she knew how badly I wanted this internship to work out.

One day, my wife approached me and told me that she thought it was time for me to put in my two week’s notice at Wells Fargo and pursue writing with all my energy and heart. Something inside of me leapt at those words. Something clicked into place, and I was on my way.

I worked side by side with the Reset Media guys for two months and created sales sheets, white papers, and a new website for the company (which they decided not to use – and if you see their site today, it has absolutely no search engine optimization value – not my fault). After two months of working in their office as an intern, the company fell apart. One of the two principles went his own way and half of the staff walked out. I was on my own again, with no job, no internship, and no prospects…

Brett Tabke Speaks at DFWSEM

The weather was absolutely perfect for sitting out on the patio, enjoying pleasant conversation. It was the perfect setting for the evening’s meeting at the Renaissance Hotel in Richardson, Texas. Christine Churchill, of KeyRelevance fame, introduced Brett Tabke to the crowd at the DFW Search Engine Marketing Association meeting yesterday. As most of you know, Brett Tabke is the man behind WebmasterWorld.com, one of the largest web-focused forums on the World Wide Web. He is also responsible for PubCon, the leading conference for sharing information about SEO, SEM, and Webmaster issues. I say “the leading conference for SEO” because, as many of you know, Danny Sullivan is making the keynote address at this year’s PubCon conference in Las Vegas.

Danny Sullivan had been the face behind the Search Engine Strategies Conference (SES) for years, but has recently announced his separation from the SES. Questions about Danny Sullivan and PubCon were no doubt at the forefront of many people’s minds: will Danny align himself with PubCon, thus thrusting it to the forefront of search engine marketing conferences? When asked, all that Brett Tabke could say is that Danny Sullivan has likely been offered positions from multiple conference organizations and has yet to announce any final decision. “He may have something to announce at the conference,” Brett chuckled, “I certainly hope so.”

Brett’s presentation covered the history of his career, exposure to computerized technology, and the issues faced by today’s SEO/SEM forums. He acknowledged a rather significant drop off in new forum memberships over the past six months. In his opinion, the rather significant portion of the American population that had not made the switch to web-based thinking/marketing has now been inoculated. “The SEO/SEM industry has plateaued,” Brett admitted. He went on to admit a level of uncertainty as to what to expect from the next phase of SEO growth. Search Engine Optimization has “matured” to a certain point, he explained, where we no longer need to repeatedly explain META Descriptions and Title Tags to the readership. The readers have asked those questions, learned as much as they can, and are now leveling off at this level of maturity that begs the question: “What do we teach them now?” Certainly, these important questions.

While we in the SEO industry certainly do not know everything, including the actual algorithms of search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask, enough information is already out there on the web that anyone can learn how to optimize a website by spending the time to research and experiment. Brett Tabke’s presentation style is very relaxed, comfortable, and personable. It was refreshing to hear a man of his stature admit to uncertainties and concerns. Those questions are real. Many SEOs have been wondering the same thing. In part, the very truth of those concerns were the motivation behind my article, “Breaking SEO Myths Part One: The SEO Expert.”

There comes a point when a person is attempting to become an expert through link bait articles, countless forum posts, and blog networks. The lack of deeper waters (outside of learning HTML, Pearl, .Net, etc.) is evidence in and of itself that the industry is quickly coming to a point when talking about itself will prove to be only redundant. And before someone begins accusing me of constantly accusing and slandering SEOs, let me be the first to say that I do not wish for a lack of new information. I don’t want to be bored. I don’t want to end up regurgitating the same old thing. I enjoy learning, challenges, and growth. So just know that my comments about the industry are not bitter judgments but rather concerns about myself.

SEO Tips Part One

Search Engine Optimization is a ballooning industry. There's no doubt about that. Every business needs to ensure that their website and other online marketing efforts function as effectively as possible. So many entrepreneurs have seen visions of the tidal wave of money to be made in the industry, and they jumped right in although they can barely dog-paddle. You can learn the same basic info that most SEO firms will tell you just by searching for "SEO tips" on Google.

Many of them are afraid to let you know that because they want to be viewed as professionals with insider information that can only be gained through years of experience. The only time that seems to be actually true is when using PERL script or other back end programming and development. Obviously, a programmer has skills that not everyone has. But SEO principles are not specialized, and they do not require someone with five or more years of experience to understand. Having said that, you are more than likely better off hiring an SEO firm to do the work for you. No, I'm not sending mixed signals here. You need to be aware of the smooth talk and the BS some of them will use to impress you, but you probably still need someone's help to do the actual work. That is, unless you are willing to hire someone on full-time to do it for you.

After many conversations with many "experts", I have noticed two vital tools missing from nearly everyone's approach. If I may be blunt, they are missing because the SEO firms aren't true marketing firms and are too young to understand how to truly win long-term repeat business. TWO THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO SUCCEED WITH SEO There are two things you need to know to succeed: you must know the customer and you must know the search engines.

You cannot complete a successful SEO campaign if you have not taken the time to know your target audience. It is sickening how many companies spout cliches like "find your target audience" without actually helping you find them. What might be even worse is that SEO experts have all read or spoken about the importance of inbound links for good rankings, yet so many of them never incorporate linking strategies for their clients.

A successful marketing company researches the client's target audience until they know who they are, what they want, how they speak, and what they respond to. If your SEO service provider doesn't know that much detail about your customers, how do they know which keywords your customers will use to search with on Google or Yahoo? Exactly – they don't. Sure, keyword research tools exist to provide a list of related phrases which are extremely popular, but are they the phrases people will use when looking to buy? It's more involved than simply pressing a few buttons and letting a computer program shoot out some answers.

Why are these crucial elements missing? Because SEO firms don't believe you will spend the money to do a search engine optimization campaign the right way. Because most of their clients know very little about SEO, the firms cut out necessary elements to lower the price and gain clients.

THE COST OF NEGLECT
The unfortunate side effect is a half-brained campaign. No matter what they have done, Google will continue to shun your website as an authority because you lack the appropriate inbound links. To add to your future frustration, you will eventually realize that even though your traffic has increased even significantly, your conversion rate has not increased at the same rate. This is, of course, due to the fact that although your SEO firm drew more people to your site, they were not the right people.

The truth is that 98% of the time you get what you pay for. If you are large enough to pay for conventional marketing and advertising, you probably don't skimp on the details. SEO is still a relatively new industry and the experts are still relatively insecure about their status. They may be willing to compromise to land a client. You do not want this. Why spend any money at all for the wrong thing or a poor quality thing? You might as well save your money or spend it elsewhere.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Somebody famous said that. They were right. Don't waste your time or money on a half-hearted service. Ask questions. Get involved. Insist on well-laid plans and ideas, just like you would for a commercial spot during the Super Bowl. Everyone wants results yesterday, and almost no one wants to wait. But quality comes from thorough research and planning. Don't compromise the quality of your business.Daniel Dessinger provides writing services including: SEO, interactive press releases, website copy, articles, creative ads, copy editing, and consulting. Visit him on the web at http://www.culturefeast.com.