Monday, May 19, 2008

Linking In Earnest

I watched an amazing video last night - “Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” on YouTube.

This vid has been online a bit (has over 2.3 million views) so you’ve probably know about this guy but in case you don’t, Randy Pausch is a Professor from Carnegie Mellon who is dying of pancreatic cancer. He’s blogging and recording his final days as a way to leave a legacy for his very young children and draw awareness to this deadly disease.

The lecture on the video is part of an old academic tradition known as “The Last Lecture”. Professors are asked to pass on to their students all their worldly wisdom as if the next day would be their last. In an ironic twist, Professor Pausch was asked to do the lecture the same time he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

As I watched and listened to this remarkable 76 minute video, four things he recommended stood out for me:

1. “… be good at something, it makes you valuable”

2. “How do you get people to help you? By telling the truth. Being earnest. I'll take an earnest person over a hip person every day because hip is short-term.”

3. (Shows slide of Jackie Robinson) “Don’t complain, just work harder. That’s a picture of Jackie Robinson. It was in his contract not to complain, even when the fans spit on him. You can spend it complaining or playing the game hard. The latter is likely to be more effective.

4. "Work hard. I got tenure a year early. Junior faculty members used to say to me, 'What's your secret?' I said, 'it’s pretty simple: call me any Friday night in my office at ten o'clock and I'll tell you."
Professor Pausch wants us to take what he’s learned and use it to enrich our personal and professional lives. I see no better tribute than to apply his sage advice to my link building business and life in general:

1. Be good, it makes you invaluable. Attracting links is about setting yourself apart and/or creating a niche. Spend time developing your business and marketing your reputation rather than coming up with silly linking schemes.

2. Be earnest. Cutesy link bait may attract a handful of links, but content in demand is there for the long haul. The number one online activity after email is product search. Write content that answers your customer’s questions and provides value.

3. Work harder. Don't succumb to the mediocrity of your competitors. Look to offline promotions for inspiration and ways to set you apart. Don’t use linking tactics that can jeopardize your business.

4. Work hard. You can’t build quality links in a day. Or a week, or even a month. It takes time and energy to create the right content and/or find and approach sites that will do you the most good. Develop your content, your image and your reputation and you’ll become the authority site everyone wants links from.

If you’d like to see the PowerPoint slides Dr. Pausch’s used in the lecture, click here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

All Hail The Dot Link - Or Not?

I talked with Dixon Jones from Receptional yesterday, Dixon lives "across the pond" and is someone I chat with frequently about link building and life in general.

It's always interesting to hear what fellow linkers are noticing and watching, especially those from other countries. There are subtle differences in linking tactics and approach based on cultural customs and engine variations so I'm always looking to pick up a tip or get input on things when they fall outside my native comfort zone.

I pinged Dixon to get his opinion on using dot com's versus country TLD's and because I thought his answer had a lot of great info in it and might benefit someone else, asked him for permission to reprint our conversation. He said OK so here goes...

debra: you think it's better/more advantageous for a business in the UK to use a dot com? Or use a dot How's that affect link building?

Dixon: When I read that question first, I thought you asked what was more "adventurous" rather than what was more "advantageous" - which is interesting, because the two words probably give me different thoughts.

Debra: Yeah well, sorry, my spelling sucks and I probably typed "adventurous" instead of "advantageous". Or maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. ;)- So what you think, dot com or dot

Dixon: The absolute safe thing (SEOwise) for a UK company with a UK client base to do is to use a domain hosted on a UK based webserver - then they should 301 redirect the .com domain to the However - this isn't my preferred approach - more about my preference later.

debra: How much later? I have to go get the kids from school soon.

Dixon: Later as in two seconds while I type this. I can't go but so fast.

debra: Ah. Sorry. Again.

Dixon: There are some really important pre-requisites here. The first is that you shouldn't even start if you do not own the .com domain AND the use a domain where you can control both if you can. If you do not, then there is a very real risk that the other TLD is taken and used in a similar way confusing your customers and the very least and having someone profiteering off of your brand at the very worst.

There are many domains available where the .com is taken, and there is a tendency to jump on these. Before buying one, check that the .com owner is established in a different business and certainly not likely to be mistaken for you. Sometimes things happen the other way around. When I started out, I bought ... but I was a poor man, and the was cheaper. Unfortunately, was taken. Now there is a company of several hundred architects presumably kicking themselves for not buying the .com. (If they had at least thanked me for redirecting their misguided emails for 8 years I might care, but not even a Christmas card so far)

debra: Well that's pretty rude of them. Want me to point some links at them and....

Dixon: No no no. Anyway... The real key for Google last time I looked was where the server is hosted - not the domain name itself. I suspect that this may be changing over time, but the "adventurous" route is not to 301 the to the .com, but rather to use the .com HOSTED ON A UK SERVER (very important) and then 301 the onto it. This gives you a much better grounding on which to go global. Because let's face it - adventurous is nothing if not about expanding in the future.

debra: All that redirecting and being adventurous makes my head hurt.

(Inserted: Dixon ignores me here and keeps typing)

Another reason for needing both TLDs is that people in the UK certainly do assume a url and type it in. They are as likely to make a mistake using .com instead of as they are the other way around.

debra: Yeah, using the dot com is easier and less typing. Glad to know people are lazy everywhere not just here in Virginia.

debra: So how do you determine where a site is hosted? Have a tool for this lazy person?

Dixon: If anyone needs to know where a site is hosted, there are a few tools - one is at You first need to ping the domain (which I do from the DOS/CMD window) "ping" to get the IP number of the site. And for the record, Geobytes isn't mine.


Good information as usual, thanks for the input Dixon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's Hip To Be Link Square

We recently had a great turn out at our quarterly lunch meeting of the Virginia SEO MeetUp. The afternoon flew by as the group talked and shared ideas on everything connected to SEO. There were lots of questions on things like which conference should they budget to attend and what new tools were out there. It seems all the talk of recession has a lot of SEO/SEM shops budgeting for only one show this year and only investing in tools with a clear ROI. That conversation alone was noteworthy but overall the one topic that sparked the most debate centered around link building and which tactics were working. Click to continue reading...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Is Traffic The New PageRank? No.

How many times have you read an article or blog post where someone says "don't worry about PageRank, if the link will drive traffic it's worth pursuing." I'm betting you read that a lot and if you're like me, catch yourself scoffing just a little when you do.

Yes yes I know PageRank isn't a major component of the ranking algorithm anymore and yes I know it dates me but what the heck, I can't help myself. I'm a busy person with little time to look behind every page I come across so I let the toolbar set the tone. If there's a meter of green, the page passes the initial glance test. If not, I may do further analysis before moving on. For me, the PageRank meter is an adequate gatekeeper and one I can see present tense.

Traffic is harder to determine, there's no way to look at a site and see site traffic unless they offer something like Sitemeter on their pages. There's also no way to see which pages a search engine deems higher quality. You just don't offer stats publicly unless you're selling links in which case they should be provided in a media kit. As a result, it's tough to find out what a site is generating traffic wise and makes securing links based on traffic a gamble since it's a future tense metric. (meaning, I take a risk in securing a traffic based link. I can't tell the success of that link until it generates traffic).

But there's a couple of problems with my old habit.

First, it limits me to using just Google. That's not good since each of the "big three" use a different ranking algorithm I may miss out on an opportunity to find a good partner site by just using one.

Ok truth be told I don't like the idea of one entity having so much power and right now, Google has a lot. Don't tread on me, and power to the people comes to mind when I think of Google. (Which is pretty funny if you consider their motto.) And while Google doesn't tread, right now I feel like they are creeping along into everything and that kinda worries me.

Second, Google has been pushing the use of nonfollow which has prompted a good number of commercial sites to adopt it rendering any authority vote they cast almost invisible not only on G but Yahoo! as well.

Influenital sites like YouTube, the Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers and now the greater portion of Flickr pink their links which means their authority doesn't flow. We've made them authorities by linking to them but do not enjoy the reciprocity that comes with partnership. Oh well.

And lastly, we know visual PageRank isn't a true representation of the real McCoy... not that it really matters in the big ranking picture anyway. I mean, why do people say things like " well the toolbar doesn't really show true PageRank". Does it show false PageRank? Well no according to Google, it just doesn't show what they see. It's a timing issue. Whatever.

All seems kinda dumb when you talk about it like this. So why does the fuss around PageRank continue? Good question. Better question might be - what's better at giving us the quick qualifying factor like the PageRank toolbar?

Don't tell me Alexa. Yikes! Maybe it's plain old search engine placement, an average of sites across the three engines.

The only tool I know that does that is Aaron's Myriad Search although I noticed it doesn't bring back any results for Ask Jeeves but includes them as an option on the main page.

For now I'm keeping my toolbar. Sorry Aaron, love Myraid and will use it but it doesn't fit on my toolbar. When it does I'll unhook the green meter and put it up there. Until then, here's looking at you PageRank.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Forum Trolls Suck

Click the link to enlarge cartoon unless you have super power vision. :)