Every year I look forward to the Affiliate Summit presentation hosted by Wil Reynold's, the iconic voice of search engine optimization and leader of Seer Interactive. Here are some highlights of his presentation at Affiliate Summit East 2012 on the recent Google Penguin and Panda changes and how to think about SEO.
How Are Companies Linking to You?
First Wil suggested doing backlink research. He recommended that marketers start by getting an overview of backlinks into a website from the Webmaster tools offered by Google and Bing (dates and links to get velocity), Majestic SEO and SEOmoz (opensitexplorer.com). Note that Bing Webmaster tools will show you links into competitive sites. When you use opensiteexplorer.com, be sure to look at all pages on the sub-domain.
Next, look at the anchor text for those links. Anchor text should primarily be the name of your business not what your business does. In his case It is un-natural to see anchor text that says "SEO Company" vs. the company name, "Seer Interactive." If you are putting anything other than your company name in SEO you are eventually going to get dinged for un-natural SEO linking.
Check the Quality of Links that Link to Your Site
To check link quality use Ahrefs.com. First enter your doman and click search. Next, look at the keywords tab and the resulting graph. It shows you how many keywords the site is ranking for. Next check the sites that are linking to you. If the sites that are linking to you are ranking for less keywords, then the links to your site will decline in value.
Unfortunately, if someone points bad links at a site, such as purchased links, this can tank a site. The best remedy is to let Google know if someone is funneling bad links to your site.
Stop Tricking Google, Do "Real Company Shit"
Wil's advice hasn't changed over the years, which is to never exploit temporary link building opporutnities. He suggested that you look at your site as you would have years ago before the internet and think like a marketer. Ask yourself, what you are doing adds value?
Wil started the hashtag #RCS or real company shit to drive the point home. He asked the audience to start doing real things. He urged everyone to consider how they make someone's life better and then to create a real business to do it. For example; answer reader questions with an intent to help.
Another tip was to act as if you would do it for free. People who do things for free do not fill pages with ads, they fill the page with the answer to the search question.
HipMonk is a great example of a site built to help people who are booking travel by providing new and clear ways to present information. The site has the same content as other sites, but they've made it easier to read. Now compare gathering the same information on Expedia. Big difference. Zappos is another good example of RCS.
Wil also showed Climbing Frames UK and the "real people" reviews. They encourage customers to take pictures of the backyard swings they sell and ask for customers to comment. A contest is to "get your purchase back" if you participate in their forum with a review. He suggested asking people on your email list to start writing for you and to stay away from writers who are not passionate about your topic.
If you compare Climbing Frames vs. the larger sites such as WalMart, they are both using drop ship to fulfill orders. The difference is Climbing Frames is focused on building a business around backyard swing sets that provides high quality content to the buyer.
He did point out that because of a company's size they are able to leverage their domain power. He also urged the audience to remember that "your competitors are not stupid forever." All this says is that you need to continually innovate and out think the larger company.
Passionate Competitors Will Do it For Free
If your passion is to make money, the problem is that there is always someone that is willing to do it for free. To compete, you need to share that passion and understand how to add value to the audience. He gave an example when working with Bank of America. Wil pointed out how search is going to get more and more personal, with Google checking your circles to influence results.
He also suggested that if you use the Google author association, make sure you do it with someone that is recognizable. You are more likely to click if you see a person that has shared something of value in the past. The author project is about sharing their influence, not authors.
The http://bit.ly/authortool will take a link and show you other places that they have authorship. Wil suggested that you take a list of people that every commented on your blog and twitter (use follower wonk), and drop all of your links on the http://bit.ly/guest-post-gdoc tool to see if they take guest posts. You can also export people that left a comment on your blog using http://bit.y/export-commenters.
Google is Changing The Appearance of Search
Wil provided examples such as Linkin Park and the Philadelphia Zoo. Google results are now eliminating listings from random websites in favor of organized results that are provided by Google. Said another way google is substituting information provided by the search engine and eliminating publishers using tools such as www.google.com/hotelfinder.
Google is Rewarding Brand Activity
Wil ended the session by recalling the days when if you had no followers and no engagement you could win by gaming SEO. This game is now over. Today, you need to have rabid fans that are engaged. He suggested that building relationships is more important than building links.
The net of his talk was that to win in today's search your you need to "build something amazing." You should seek to help people with your expertise on sites such as INBOXq.com and build your reputation.
To build followers you need to be a leader in your field. In Twitter, there is search where you can look for people that asked questions. If you want to meet a major speaker, search for their name and your city. Use the tool "If this Then That" for be alerted whenever someone you are following asks a question or seeks advice about something you know, such as a restaurant in your home town.
The bottom line is that "Google is knocking out the crap," and sites that should win, are starting to rise i the rankings. All I can say is that it's about time.