Thursday, May 25, 2006
I have an e-path I travel every day. Starts with my email, goes to a line of forums, then a handful of blogs. From there I scan a couple of chat communities and end up at the freelance/employment boards.
Why the freelance boards? Well, I think it’s interesting to watch what people are hiring for and the descriptions they use to advertise those jobs. I watch the SEO community of course, but I also look at the industries my clients are in.
Think about it. If there suddenly was a trend in a particular industry to hire -- say -- videographers, wouldn’t you want to know why? Or if you started to see a descriptive term used in job postings, wouldn’t you investigate further?
For example, late last year the term “link bait” surfaced in SEOLand; within a couple weeks I noticed it was being used in descriptions on the job forums. Whoever was looking for experienced promotions people not only had a jump start on getting qualified people, they also had a head start on using and understanding there was a new “trend”.
Key words aren’t only found in wordtracker, the overture tool or whatever other software you use. Identify where the buzz breaks in your industry and be diligent in watching for trends.
Determine what hot new keywords are being used and then get them in your anchor text links and added as content on your website. Be a trend setter for terms so when the public starts to search, it will be your site that comes to their attention first.
Be an early link-bird and catch the best keyword worm!
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Posted by Debra Mastaler at 9:33 AM
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
When women meet for the first time they can pretty much tell within five minutes if they're going to like that person or not. With Karon, it only took me two seconds especially after I heard she's a shop-aholic shoe freak like me. Do I wear anything other than flipflops? No, but that's another story.
Karon stopped by and left us an article on "How to Write Persuavisve Subject Lines". It's a great article so kick your shoes off and stay awhile! ;)
How To Write Persuasive Subject Lines
by Karon Thackston © 2005
Three seconds and 40 characters. That's all you usually have to work with when trying to get and hold the attention of someone reading email. And, with user behavior changing so much in response to overwhelming amounts of spam, the attention spans of email readers are getting shorter. Needless to say, it's vital to make the most of your introduction via the email subject line.
Email marketing powerhouse DoubleClick.com conducts annual surveys with regard to user behavior when it comes to email. A couple of the statistics from their latest findings are interesting. The second biggest motivator in opening email is the subject line. (The first is the "from" line.)
Because subject lines are often truncated at around 40 characters -- and because email readers usually have their index fingers poised over the delete button -- we're left with about three seconds and approximately six words to make an impression. So what works? Which types of subject lines have proven to be successful? Here are my top three.
Make an Offer
It's an old sales cliché that still holds true in the fast-paced world of cyberspace: Lead with your best offer. Whether a product, a service or a proposal, you want to tell people up front about your deepest discounts, your fastest delivery or your grandest idea. Get their attention right off the bat, and you'll likely have your message read. (It's even better if your offer happens to be time sensitive.) Examples include:
Half Off Leather Boots Until March 1st
Top 10 Reasons to Attend [Whatever]
Your Link on High Ranking Web Pages
State a Benefit
Since the majority of consumer and B2B customers live in the "what's in it for me" world, benefits always make powerful subject lines. Telling the readers what the end results of their actions will be helps them visualize the need for your product or service. Here are a few examples based on the subject lines above:
Wear Fall's Hottest Trends for 50% Off
Learn [Whatever] in Only Two Days
Build Link Popularity & Traffic for Your Site
We're all nosey to a point. Our curiosity gets the best of us, and we want to know more. That's not only true when it comes to watching movie previews on TV. It's also true for email as well. Some of the best subject lines hook readers by piquing their curiosity, and then reel them in to read the entire message.
Are You Still Wearing These Fashion "Don'ts”?
The Secrets to [Whatever] Never Before Revealed
Link Popularity Scams You Should Avoid
Of course, the key to writing the best subject lines is knowing your target customers, making the topic relevant and testing, testing, testing.
I mentioned a "couple" interesting facts from the DoubleClick email survey. The second is that relevancy is a major player. Over 55% of respondents said they deleted email that wasn't relevant because they considered it spam. DoubleClick also reported that the average open rate was 27.5% (for text or HTML messages). That gives you a baseline to gauge your success.
Not every type of subject line will work for every campaign. Testing is vital. And it's easy enough to do. One of my favorite ways is to set up a Google AdWords campaign and judge the clickthrough rates. This quickly (and cheaply) tells you which subject lines will work and which won't. You can also test your subject lines by sending your emails to a smaller test list before broadcasting it to the entire group.
Whichever styles of subject lines you choose make sure you know your target audience so you can develop relevant subject lines. Then test and test again until you've created subjects that are highly persuasive and deliver record-breaking open rates.
Karon Thackston has been creating results-oriented copy for all mediums for the past 22 years. Her understanding of how buying behavior influences customers' purchasing decisions is a primary factor in the success she creates for her clients. Karon has spoken at several Search Engine Strategies conferences and is also regularly featured at Jill Whalen's Search Engine Marketing seminars. Visit Karon online at www.marketingwords.com for more information.
Posted by Debra Mastaler at 8:27 AM
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
What a hornets nest this whole linking tactic has caused over the last year or so. Most links are bought and paid for in some way, even swapping links has an assumed value (or people wouldn’t do it) so I’m not sure what the fuss is about. Whatever the controversy, buying and selling links is part of the marketing mix and works to increase link popularity and drive traffic if you buy smart.
With link buying, my recommendation is to stay out of “typical” link buy areas (navigational areas) and focus instead on negotiating for space in content areas - (think infomercial). Site wide links still work in some cases but usually not for long and not like they used to. You might as well color them neon to the search engines they’re such a dead giveaway.
(Tip) Bill sent me links to the Microsoft and Google papers on content matching. Neither document comes right out and says they’re discounting links in nav areas but as Bill put it….."
The closest patent I can find to that concept doesn't talk about
discounting links from sections of a page, but it's a very very (deserves more than one very) obvious next step after they break down a page into sections, and can easily recognize which sections are the nav links, the header, the main content, and so on.”
Getting people to sell space in content areas is easier said than done – but not impossible. Pull together your tactics and then search for compatible sites to contact. Consider buying space in online publications such as newsletters, ezines, reports etc. I look for publications that will insert ad copy throughout the content areas and archive past editions.
(Tip) A great place to buy targeted ad space is in an online conference handbook. They offer content areas, actively look for sponsors, are archived on busy and usually well ranked sites.
Another tactic is to offer link embedded copy (some firms call them presell pages, hosted marketing pages, or content swapping) to sites in exchange for space or money. The premise is good and highly desirable as your links are placed in content areas and surrounded by optimized verbiage. But…the reality is unless you have a network of decently ranked sites in place that will agree to do this, it’s a time consuming tactic at best. **
(**Hey....): when I use the term "network of sites" I'm not talking about sites you've created to host links or content or whatever. I'm talking about sites you've developed relationships with inside your community.
Again, the key is in the research. You need to find sites that rank well, have content to compliment yours and seem open to offering space. Be prepared to spend a bit of money here as most website owners won’t just create new pages or rearrange content to accommodate you because they’re good guys. They’re looking for compensation in some form!
If you’re short on time and money, consider contacting the link brokerage firms for info on their services. I’ve referred their services to clients who have been happy with what they got and the customer service they offered. If you don’t have a link staff they may be the way to go.
If you go ahead and buy text links on your own, consider staying away from sites that have sponsored ad boxes. Nothing draws attention to a paid link like an ad box!
And finally, mix up the type of links you buy to include those that don’t affect rank. Buying links strictly for traffic and exposure is a good thing as advertising to your demographic tends to affect your bottom line in many ways. ;)
This spiel is getting long so I'll stop here. Let's do the content generation thing tomorrow and then start looking at tools, link types and where to find link partners.
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Posted by Debra Mastaler at 2:30 AM
Monday, May 15, 2006
Continued from previous post:
I'm a directory groupie and use them as a staple in all my linking campaigns. I've posted about them before so I'll just copy and paste:
I'm a fan of Directories for many reasons but in regards to linking, if you're getting
started or want to increase your stable in short order, using Directories is
great. There are about 30 good ones (general Directories) and most of these
allow you to personalize your anchors and/or descriptions. I always make sure
the page I'm adding a description to is in the index of Google, Yahoo and MSN
and doesn't use any redirects or frames.
There are Directories for just about everything. You can easily acquire a dozen one-way links from topically relevant pages using targeted keyword anchors by adding your URL to the general and specialized Directories. Here's a couple ideas:
Have an RSS feed? Pop over to the Google Directory and add your feed to the RSS Directories they list.
Have a blog? Search on the term "blog directory" in the Google Directory and add away. Notice many will allow keyword anchors and descriptive text.
Do you write articles to generate links? The DMOZ has a great list of article directories. Double check for link friendliness (see above) and look to see if they offer an RSS. It's a good way to keep an eye on what other people are writing and submitting. Speaking of writing articles...
Writing articles to gain links.
In addition to adding your articles to the directories, find an ezine directory such as Ezinelisting and look for newsletters in your niche and complimentary niches. Once you find them, determine which ezine has been around longest (visit the site and look at volume numbers and publication dates) as it stands to reason seasoned newsletters have more readers and are established in the search engines.
Send off a sample article to the ezine owner and ask about having it/others published. Consider dangling a special offer to the ezine owner for running it and another to the readership; this encourages continued (think viral!) linking and hopefully sparks other ezine owners to contact you for articles. And don't forget to negiotiate for hyperlinked space in the body of the article as well as the contact area.
There are a lot of terms used for marketing campaigns that are self perpetuating. "Link baiting"- "viral linking" - "stealth marketing" and the one I use -- "link tsunamis". No matter what you call it, it's one of the most positive forms of traditional and/or SEO related marketing out there because the links attracted are 100% natural. No payments, no swapping, no begging involved! Links are added because people find the promotion emotionally stimulating in some way - it's pure marketing.
Link tsunamis experience higher success rates when targeted to a pre-existing network of users. The campaign will have little effect and the promotion will end almost as soon as it's started without a network to travel or be pushed through. You can create all the cute mash-ups, funny video clips or controversial editorials you want but if it doesn't stimulate an emotion, have some direction and a large network of people to pass through -- it stalls and all your link building opportunity with it.
Creating a word of mouth campaign doesn't have to be expensive, most viral campaigns are created because marketing budgets are tight. The emotion behind the campaign seems to stimulate the linking and the size of the user network carries it forward. Link tsunami's tend to work well in the blogging community because Bloggers actively link out and support a greater communication network. Want to get a link bait program off the ground and passed around topically relevant sites fairly quickly? Start it in the blogosphere
You hear a lot of talk about creating viral linking campaigns but seldom see examples. Here's a few Marketing Sherpa collected and shared recently. My favorite was #7 - "Blogs In Space" (I love all things Star Trek, Star Wars, Muppets and space in general).
I've experienced two "downsides" to link tsunamis -
1. The campaigns tend to be short lived and
2. The links don't always use the keywords you'd like. There isn't really anything you can do about number one (except create a part one and part two linking promotion and stagger their debuts) but there may be something you can do about number two.
Once the promotion has settled down you can go back and try to reclaim the links in non-media locations. Link reclamation is a TON of work but the end result could be worth it and it's kinda fun to see who linked to you. Do people change links? Sometimes yes, sometimes no...it really depends on the campaign and if it's even appropriate to ask.
Need to run, let's talk about buying links and content generation tomorrow.
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Posted by Debra Mastaler at 8:54 PM
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Last year a good friend of mine opened a store in town and asked me to help with the launch and advertising campaign.
Before the store opened, we spent a good deal of time drafting her marketing plan. Of course I immediately suggested a website as part of the marketing arsenal, but her comfort level wasn't there so I tabled the idea. She's no stranger to the WWW but like a lot of small business owners her first reaction was to focus on "street" advertising and promotions.
Sales were great the first couple weeks but after awhile, things leveled off especially after a similar store opened nearby. We analyzed her advertising and decided unless we substantially increased the budget and/or implemented discount promotions, sales would remain flat or tank.
So I brought up the website again, got a yes, launched it, promoted the URL offline, did the SEO and link building thing and watched her online sales climb.
If you're wondering why I'm sharing this and what it has to do with link building, the answers is -everything! My friend's situation reminded me that regardless of where and how you promote your business, if you don't look at all the marketing opportunities available to you, you're leaving money on the table.
Link building is marketing opportunity. It touches and affects your advertising, sales, promotions, publicity and branding efforts and when done well and with thought, can make the difference between success and mediocrity. I know its popular to want to use the latest linking fad but the reality is today's fad is tomorrow's fade. Don't be left in the dark by only doing one type of link building or one type of online promotion. Different types of links reach different audiences, each unique but no less important.
There are tons of linking methods out there, some well known, others not so talked about. Here's a quick review on a handful of link tactics....
Reciprocal linking. This still works if you keep them to a minimum and within your niche. The power behind recips comes in the anchor text you provide. Be smart and point the best keyword phrases to beneficial pages on your site. Negotiate location on the host site by working to get your link on an internal page topically relevant to your site.
Another thing about recip linking.....a lot of people experience frustration with this technique because they're shot down or don't hear back from people after sending link requests. Don't give people the option to just say "yes" or "no" to the request. If you do, you make it easy for people to blow you off. Provide multiple link choices, encourage feedback and dangle incentives.....
Incentive linking. My favorite and what I do most often so no surprises that I'll gush link-poetic on this one. Look for sites with visitors that fit your customer profile and offer product incentives in exchange for link placement.
Ever notice the theme park coupons on your Big Mac bag or tray liner? Theme parks know the demographic frequenting fast food chains is similiar to theirs so they partner to distribute discount coupons. The restaurant offers a fun discount to it's customers and is featured in the theme parks TV and radio adverstising. The park gets the traffic and exposure to a large customer base. Win-win there for all.
You can do the same with links. Find a high traffic/authority site in a complimentary niche and offer an incentive (dollar off, free shipping etc) their members will find attractive in exchange for links. The success of this tactic lies in the offer so make it good and make it memorable.
You get the traffic and the link, the site gets to offer something unique to its customers. Best of all, you're not spending money up front; you control what the link says and where it points.
Press Releases. While most press releases offer short term back-links, they can establish long-term credibility if used properly. Issue releases in support of new initiatives as they promote your business and not because you've signed a new client or bought new office furniture. (Issue enough crappy releases and pretty soon your company name will be ignored by journalists and industry bloggers).
Treat a press release as a call to action and not just a way to report the news. Be sure to offer clean, short hyperlinks in the body of the copy and contact information for follow-up. It pays to use one of the subscription services if you're in a highly competitive area or a service like Eric's URL Wire if you're highly niched.
Once you've accumulated a handful of releases, create an online media center and add an RSS. Include a copy of your media kit, industry news articles, video clips, podcasts, stock market reports and headline news so you become THE spot for what's new in your area. After it's all done, issue a press release announcing its creation to influential journalists and bloggers in your niche with a product sample or free service offer.
I need to stop here but will talk about creating a link tsunami (link baiting), content generation tactics, the Directories and buying links tomorrow so stop back by!
Keywords: link, reciprocal link building, recipriocal links, incentive linking, media links, link tsunami, link baiting, content generation, link directories, buying links
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Posted by Debra Mastaler at 5:09 PM
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Power to the People: Social Linking by Eric Ward
Individual and group sharing of bookmarks or cool sites is not a new thing, and has been around as long as the Web has. Back then, I remember my excitement when more than a couple new Web sites launched. Ahhh, back in the day...
But with all the talk of Web 2.0 and "user generated content," one of the more remarkable aspects of the Web that continues to inspire me is the need for people to "share" with each other. Early Web browsers all offered the ability to bookmark, and they still do. But a new wave of tools are emerging that enable and encourage sharing everything from photos to music to the most essential and simpleist thing of all, a link.
Share a link. The very essence of the Web. Who needs Google's algorithm when there are almost 100 social bookmarking services that will help me find all the cool sites I'll ever need based on what other people like and think I might like, etc.? You could have seen it coming. Amazon's.......
Posted by Debra Mastaler at 1:53 PM