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August 2012

Google and the Future of SEO

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 ( Note that Bing Webmaster tools will show you links into competitive sites. When you use, 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 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 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 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

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 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.












Link Building in the Age of Panda and Penguin

One of the themes at this years Affiliate Summit East is the role of link building in light of algorithm changes recently implemented by Google (known as Panda and Penguin).  These notes are from the Link Building presentation given by Loren Baker, VP of Business Development, BlueGrass Interactive. His focus was on how to build a web presence via quality links.


1. Do you deserve the links? If you don't, you shouldn't have them.

2. Are the correct social signals available. Is Google+ linked to your site?

3. Evaluate link targets. Old link evaluation metrics are less important. Think audience potential over domain age. If the link can't send you traffic, you probably don't want ot. Is the site a bug? Do people rely on it to get their news?

4. Look for metrics related to engagement when evaluating link targets. Check overall traffic, number of comments per post, social sharing per post and average links generated per post.

5.  Link building cannot be seen as a separate strategy any longer. Links should be seen as a byproduct of creating remarkable content.

6. The best way to get your brand out in front of consumers is via a content marketing solution. Great content builds your brand and your audience. Great content drives traffic and brand exposure in tandem with high value links. Great content is highly shareable.

7. Links generated from content marketing initiatives are nearly always freely given, contextual and relevant, long lasting and diverse.

8. Content and Topic relevance is key.

9. It's all about relationships. Great content marketing relies on great exposure. The bigger the initial seed for content, the better the result. The larger and broader the reach, the better. Don't get too niche.

10. Make your content valuable. Create content in tandem with publishers. Work together and involve them as partners. Thank about the audiences of potential publishers. They may differ from your target audience. Find commonalities. Add value for publishers. Make them look good. Give them ore than they give you.

11. Embeddable infographics are highly effective as generating traffic and direct links. Find something topical such as the "content explosion" infographic used by BlueGlass. Thank every site that embeds the infographic and request attribution where none is provided.







The Guru of Online Testing

If there was a guru of online testing it would have to be Justin Rondeau. In a whirlwind journey through the world of testing at a speed which exceeds my ability to capture all of the notes, Justin, the Chief Editor and Evangelist of WhichTestWon reviewed his innovative approaches to ad testing innovation.  Here are a few quick tips from his session as Affiliate Summit East 2012.  

  1. Fun tip: When adding pictures, have people's eyes looking at the button you want them to press. 
  2. Test only 1 change at a time
  3. Start testing programs on the pages with the most lift potential
  4. Select a realistic confidence level such as 95% or 90% (99% not realistic)
  5. Text version of email could win out over html. Picture downloads may block any graphic calls to action. Blackberry phones tend to pick up text.   Follow mobile best practices.
  6. Mobile optimize and keep in mind the device your audience is using. 
  7. In B to B email, a message that started with "I'm your relationship manager" did extremely well and was enticing for the user.
  8. Be personal.  Personalization test by AWeber in which personalization was used in subject line won.
  9. If using a multi-field form, there was a 8% lift when you have an indicator on the top of the form which shows each completed step (lit step 1, 2, 3) etc.  Hypothesis is that you get your time commitment right away.

All of the above doesn't begin to capture the number of tips provided.  I'd suggest reviewing The site is filled with 200+ testing case studies and an opportunity to sign up for a free online testing newsletter that features a test and results in every issue.


Mobile Marketing Mistakes

Off to a great start at Affiliate Summit East 2012 with a session on mobile marketing lead generation by Alex Tsatkin, CEO MobAff LLC. Here are some of the highlights from Alex's talk:

First, 5 strategies were reviewed that lead to mobile marketing failure or success:

  1. Outdated strategies: always think in a mobile context, not in a context that was developed using other communications channels. Use third party mobile tracking to monitor your campaigns. Often placements do not match criteria.
  2. Evaluate Quality: approached differently such as metrics unique to mobile.
  3. Don't just focus on feature phones: in some markets more basic phones are the primary mode of communication.
  4. Must track mobile specific variables
  5. Diversify sources of traffic: Test on one network, but quickly scale. There is no major player in mobile. For example AdMob is just Apps.  Each network has strengths and weaknesses and vary by geography, type of traffic, availability of premium inventory. Mobile publishers are much more savy to rotate the different ad networks. Plus they always change their network affiliations making it difficult to rely on any one network as a stable source of traffic.  Better approach is to scale successful programs through an increasing number of networks.

Most direct marketing offers work on mobile, the problem is scale.

  1. Premium SMS
  2. Lead Generation
  3. App Downloads
  4. Pay Per Call

Offers that you wouldn't expect work on mobile can work such as filling out long credit card applications. 

Three things to think about when putting together a mobile marketing program:

  1. Offer must appeal to 1 out of 100 people
  2. Does the offer function properly on the phone.

5 Tricsk to Help with Mobile Testing

  1. Block WiFi: most of the traffic that comes in will be wifi if you do not block it. Also it confuses data and doesn't provide a true read of costs.
  2. Block App traffic: Takes more effort to make things work with apps
  3. Track Site ID: Most networks will provide the site ID of placements, which greatly aids in tracking.
  4. Focus on high CTR First:  click through rate is everything, especially in direct response
  5. Watch Your Redirect Speeds: on mobile, especially without WiFi it loads slower. Anything that gets in the way of load time such as images will lower response.