Hanging Out and Talking Squarespace

Squarespace Google+ HangoutA few weeks ago I received an email from Carlus Gupton asking for some advice about search engine optimization (SEO) on Squarespace. Since I don't have much extra time for consulting these days, I told Carlus that I wanted to figure out how to help him out while not letting any of my other responsibilities slip. Turns out, Google had the answer in their new Google+ Hangouts. Hang out with me while I cover Carlus's SEO questions, and let's chat about Squarespace, online marketing, and SEO.

A Google+ Hangout About Squarespace

On Thursday, June 28 at 7pm CDT (8pm EDT/6pm PDT) we'll be hosting our first ever Google+ Hangout, and you're invited to participate. We're calling it Hanging Out and Talking Squarespace, and it might just turn into an ongoing series about online marketing with Squarespace.

The topic of this first show will be Squarespace and SEO. We'll be exploring the best way to organize your website, how to perform keyword research for your website, and the do's and don't's of SEO on Squarespace.

Google+ Hangout Features

Up to nine people can be a part of a Google+ Hangout at any one time. That's 3/4 dozen people asking questions, sharing knowledge and showing off their Squarespace websites. Claim your spot in the Hangout early by dropping me a line and telling me that you're interested.

What do you need to hang out with us? A computer with a microphone, webcam, and Internet connectivity is required. It also helps to have interest in how to market your Squarespace website online, but not necessarily any direct knowledge.

Google+ Hangout features

We'll also be inviting people via Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Plus, we'll be streaming live on YouTube, thanks to the new Hangouts on Air functionality Google released in May. Hanging Out and Talking Squarespace will be published on our currently sparse YouTube channel after the live event has concluded for those who can't attend in person. 

Don't miss your chance to be a part of the first Google+ Hangout about Squarespace with our Hanging Out and Talking Squarespace series starting on June 28. Drop me a line now to secure your spot during the live event. You can also submit your ideas for future show topics too!

Squarespace Guide: 5 Steps to Marketing Your Website

A Squarespace Guide on Marketing a WebsiteYou picked Squarespace as a web publishing platform because you wanted a website that was easy to design, build, and edit. But just having a website doesn't guarantee that people will actually visit it. A few marketing tactics here and there can go a long way to bring in new business through the Internet. Here's a brief 5-step Squarespace guide on marketing your website.

Step 1: Invest in Your Website Design

Your website is now often the first thing about you people encounter, and first impressions count as much as ever. Potential customers judge the quality of your services based on the quality of your website. It sounds odd, but even for completely unrelated services such as landscaping, a more aesthetically pleasing website will usually yield more customers. Take the time to invest in the design of your Squarespace website, or get to know a great Squarespace designer.

Step 2: Take the Time to Start a Blog

According to HubSpot's 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report, 81% of businesses now indicate their blog as "useful to critical for their business." If you're not blogging at least once a week, you're missing out on a potentially big source of new business. Download our free Squarespace blogging ebook if you're looking for a good strategic Squarespace guide on blogging.

Step 3: Connect Social Media to Your Brand

People are more likely to share and interact with your business through social media if you're actively blogging and updating your social media statuses. Make it easy for people to share your website content by installing sharing widgets on your Squarespace blogs. Simply copy and paste a little custom code in most cases to install sharing widgets for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Feedburner, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and even Pinterest

Step 4: Earn Extra Traffic from Google with SEO

Squarespace is always very happy to share how SEO-friendly the website platform is, and how you shouldn't need to invest extra SEO efforts as a result of their fantastic infrastructure. Website platform aside, it also takes a solid content strategy, a link/social outreach plan, and plenty of other Squarespace SEO tactics to maximize your potential for search traffic to your website. Invest a little efforts in your SEO strategy for additional traffic from search engines.

Step 5: Measure Your Marketing Efforts for Free

The Internet is the most measurable marketing medium yet thanks to tools such as Squarespace's onboard analytics platform. But to unlock even greater insights, install Google Analytics on Squarespace. The free web analytics platform allows you to track form fills, blog comments, and just about anything else. Don't fly blind when you can produce detailed reports to tell you which of your efforts are most successful. 

Done right, you'll take a few major leaps forward in your online marketing success if you implement the five steps in this little marketing Squarespace guide. What questions do you have about marketing your website on Squarespace? What do you think a good strategy should contain?

28 Marketing and Business Books to Read in 2012

A man reading business and marketing books.At the beginning of 2011, my friend and digital PR expert Arik Hanson posed a challenge on his blog: read a book every other week all year long. I took Arik up on his challenge, and discovered nearly thirty amazing marketing and business books this year in the process.

And now that I've gotten into the habit of regular reading, 2012 will be no different. Will you join me next year? Here's a few tips and 28 marketing and business books to encourage you to join me in the 2012 26 Book Challenge.

How to Read a Book Every Other Week

Getting through 26 books in a year doesn't just happen. It's the type of thing you have to plan for, both in terms of the time it will take and medium that will work best for you.

First, where do you find yourself having chunks of time where your brain isn't engaged? Nearly everyone has that half an hour or more per day where they're stuck in traffic, on the bus/train, walking on a treadmill, etc. 

Next, what's the best medium for you to consume books during this free time? Between good old-fashioned paper books, electronic books (e.g., Kindle) and audio books (e.g., Audible), there's a way for nearly everyone to find time in your existing schedule where you could be reading and learning new things. Personally, I listen to books via Audible to and from work during my half-hour commute. That alone is responsible for most of the books I read this year.

28 Marketing and Business Books to Read in 2012

Some folks read for pleasure or simply to escape. I use my reading time to get through books on marketing and business. If you're looking to take the 26 Book Challenge in 2012, consider some of the gems* I read this year (you can also read my ever-growing list of Internet marketing book reviews):

General Online Marketing and Marketing Books:

 Content Marketing, SEO, and Social Media Books:

Marketing and Business Psychology Books:

Personal Branding and Business Philosophy Books:

*Note: there are Amazon Affiliate links contained in this list. Please buy something to subsidize my own reading habit. :)

A Complete List of 2012 Marketing and Business Books

What do you think of the books on this list?  I need your help to figure out what's missing, what deserves to be there, and what people should avoid. What great marketing and business books can you recommend? Leave a suggestion (or a few) in the comments to help my readers and me as we set our sites on the 2012 26 Book Challenge. Be sure to also leave a comment if you plan on being a part of the challenge in 2012.

Image credit: Flickr 

Liveblogging from SearchLove New York (Day 2)

Live-blogging from SearchLove New York SEO(I'm here liveblogging day two of the Distilled SearchLove SEO conference in New York. Read on if you couldn't make it to today's events.)

Targeting Humans

SearchLove's Day 2 started with a bang with Publicis Modem's Mike King dressed as M.C. Hammer. After busting a quick move, Mike started off by saying that we're approaching search and social wrong. Search is more about "who" and "why" than it is about "what." And social media is a great way to find out the "who" and "why."

Learning about people means collecting data from social listening tools (e.g., Social Mention) and quantitative traffic tools (e.g., Compete) and then building personas as a cornerstone of your approach to search and social.

King says building personas is a process of guess and check. Using social listening tools and educated guesses help to really hone in on your target audience and influencers.

Mike is now talking about using the FB:Admin in conjunction with your Google Analytics account to show keyword-level demographics. And once you have all this data in realtime, you can perform dynamic targeting on your site based on the user personas you've created.

Content has to be compelling to your audience. The best SEOs don't deserve to rank unless the user loves what they find. If you take your keywords and filter them through social listening tools, you'll get a much better feel for the types of content people want to see relative to your keywords.

Compelling content requires employing smart tactics. King is now rapping about co-relevance, which happens when you mash up two different things (e.g., A Candy Land infographic about Oprah) that aren't quite related. If you have a good feel for your personas, creating co-relevance opportunities should be plentiful. He's showing GoFish as a realtime keyword research tool to support these types of efforts.

Now we're moving on to link building. In SEO, content is king, but in link building, context is king. Spam emailing form letters is near-worthless. King is walking through an intricate process of using Twitter, Open Site Explorer and to take link building and requests to the next level.

The best outreach efforts are tailored to the target. Usually this requires custom emails written by hand to each prospect. But if you have personas, you can group your prospects into categories and write form email requests to scale link prospecting.

More tools for follower/link prospecting: Followerwonk, Scraper (Chrome Extension), Screaming Frog and King's own KloutScout and SiteSkout.

Link building should be fun if you take this approach. You're building relationships first, and the links will follow. Mike is now moving on to how to approach link prospects. Subject lines with "link request" in them clearly won't perform well. Your first email shouldn't even mention a link. On the Twitter side, begin by @ replies, but quickly escalate to DMs so you can move the conversation to email.

Add value for your prospects by giving them information, entertainment, or more. If you give away prizes, offer them contest-style to maximize participation instead of giving them away to everyone. One-to-many is better than one-to-one.

Mike closed things down with some truly remarkable mash-ups of social and keyword data that allows him much greater levels of sophistication of ROI projections. And finally, Mike revealed that Googlebot is actually... Chrome. My mind is blown. You've delivered, Mike King.

Reputation Management in an Instant World

Now up is Rhea Drysdale from Outspoken Media, and she's ready to talk about reputation management. Rhea has been known by many names (e.g., Shera, Princess of Power), but none are more important to her than her given name. Rhea cares a lot about reputation management, because she's been the target of someone trying to squat on her personal brand.

Our name is all we'll leave to this world when we're gone (minus all the stuff, of course). Our names are our legacies, so why wouldn't we want to protect it? There is so much content out there. Between UGC, reviews, and even Google Suggest, there are a lot of places that require reputation management.

Rhea's first major reputation management case study centered around a client with " scam" showing up in Google Suggest. Rhea discovered that someone was using data hosting services such as Amazon and Rackspace to perform fake queries and get the query in the suggest box. Yikes, this is some tough territory.

Some efforts are just crap. Rhea showed how some reputation management "services" involve spamming UGC sites with relevant terms. This works, but it's crap. Instead, shoot for better destinations such as Linkedin, industry articles and Wikipedia, all the way down to sites such as Businesscard2 and CareerBuilder. Publish relevant content here for reputation management, not on crap sites that serve no value.

Rhea's next case study is looking a client that had some bad press surrounding it. A reactionary company culture combined with a history of smaller, yet numerous bad stories and other factors stacked the deck against the company.

Outspoken Media reacted with a video strategy, pr strategy and an internal communication strategy as a way to change the conversation. These types of snafus can define a company's or CEO's legacy, and so it's important to stay on top if it.

And now for some reputation management tips that will drive SEO benefits. Drysdale is talking about a client who ranked #1 and #2 for a short-tail term, but they wanted all of page one. She formed an inventory of candidates for page one, then Google's sitelinks came out, and many of her prospects now rolled up into the sitelinks interface. Owning all of page one would be difficult because there were now too few pages that could appear on page one.

Rhea turned folders into sub-domains to get around sitelinks, and built out profiles on other sites. Her results speak for themselves. I'll certainly be trying some of these tactics myself.

What Does a CRO Expert Bookmark

After a quick morning coffee, we're watching Stephen Pavlovich of Conversion Factory talk about conversion rate optimization. Stephen asserts that CRO requires an endless supply of new ideas to maximize the potential lift. And Evernote is the perfect tool to create a growing "swipe file."

Evernote allows you to tag emails, photos, web pages, just about anything. The key is to make it a habit. Anything you see that gives you ideas for testing, put it in your swipe file for when you need it later.

When you're doing CRO, always find the problem first, then solve it. 99% of CROs don't do it in this order, which means they're doing it wrong.

Pavlovich is now walking through the process. First, put anything that inspires you into Evernote and tag it for later. Online marketing examples are plentiful, but don't forget about offline marketing examples are also key for getting new ideas for testing. And new ideas are like shortcuts in CRO.

CRO isn't always about broad sweeping changes. Many times it's the little things that propel conversion rates. For example, a "damaging admission" is when a company uses a potential objection as a benefit. If you don't have a phone number on your website, put a page up explaining why.

Next up, Stephen is talking about the value of copywriting. Not enough companies truly value copywriting these days. Learn copywriting, hug those that know it, and make sure you're always improving skills in this area.

Look for offline inspiration for online tests. Traditional sales and advertising, psychology and behavioral economics have so many best practices and insights to teach CROs. The age-old concept of "show, don't tell" has been a sales tactic since the 1800s. That said, what's the best way to demonstrate that your product works? Personalized marketing has been around forever as well.

CRO is a great way to test out things online before committing to offline efforts. Esquire emails potential covers to a portion of their subscribers to see which one should hit the news stand. Tim Ferriss almost named 4-Hour Work Week "Millionaire Chameleon." Would that have done as well? Probably not.

Pavlovich is wrapping up by encouraging us all to use Evernote to build a swipe file, capture everything from your industry and others, then run your tests. What a great presentation and thoughtful approach to getting ideas for CRO.

Big Business SEO

And now Distilled's Tom Critchlow is presenting on big business SEO. SEO for large brands and big businesses is a bit different from startups. For starters, SEO for big businesses is tough because big businesses like big changes and big ideas. SEO is often about smaller changes that add up to big results. Small changes and ideas can often get squashed in the prioritization process. That said, Tom encourages us to pitch big projects.

The ideas isn't to constantly be putting your eggs into one basket. Have a long-term vision and gain buy-in for a pilot project that is smaller in scope and scale. When (if) it works, then you can go back and get the funding for the big project. Big business means internal politics and processes. A strategic approach to pitching SEO projects is just as important as implementing the projects themselves.

For example, Zappos has over 50,000 product videos on their website. These are the types of projects SEOs should be pitching within their companies. The videos created a competitive advantage for Zappos that brings lasting value for the company. When you compare projects like this to less exciting projects like "putting page titles on every page" or "adding 200 words of copy to every page," which one seems like the right project to take on?

Investing in improving a page is one thing. But improving page types is the larger, grander project that will bring more longterm results.

Tom's next point is that data is important. Data for the sake of reporting is a bad thing, but data for the sake of insights is critical. Tools such as SEOmoz, MajesticSEO, and others provide amazing insights for a (usually) nominal investment.

The org chart is the most challenging part of any big business SEO campaign. Getting the right people on your project is critical. Knowing who those people are can be a challenge, much less getting their time to contribute to your project. If you don't know your org chart, you're dead in the water.

SEOs also run into org chart difficulties because the standard hierarchies aren't typically content-friendly. SEO requires cooperation of many cross-functional people that usually role up to different departments. Often you have to go all the way to the CEO to resolve SEO and content impasses. And when the CEO needs to step in and defend content, you're probably in trouble. Tom believes that "our generation" of professionals will see a Chief Content Officer role emerge in the industry as a way to address these organizational incongruencies.

In-house SEOs hate the words, "and then you just..." Things that seem trivial to startups or agencies can often be much more difficult in an enterprise setting because there are so many more people involved. The best thing an in-house SEO can do is to educate colleagues in other areas so that the companies core processes have SEO baked in. SEOs can affect this change through processes.

When something isn't working, figure out what the current process is and see what's missing. What steps could you add, remove, or re-order to ensure that SEO is baked right in? This is the way an in-house SEO scales and creates permanent change.

One-off is bad, processes and programs are amazing. And good processes require good project management (I'm always thankful for my experience as a project manager). Project management is not only a process for getting things done, but it's also a common language within enterprises. Use "Gap Analysis" instead of "Competitive Analysis." Use a SWOT Analysis instead of a dozen compelling slides.

For large sites, Tom recommends removing and pruning pages frequently. Especially with Panda changes, it's important to trim pages that are no longer relevant or are of low quality. Trimming the fat helps your entire site rank better, so it's important to be actively removing pages from it.

Tom's wrapping up with a tip on LinkedIn. Sit down with your C-Suite and scan through their industry contacts. Leveraging the authority of your leaders on LinkedIn can be a great way to build links and score new business development.

Why I'm a White Hat Now

Bob Rains hacks things, which is a great skill to have as an SEO. Bob is starting off by talking about how it used to be easy to game the Internet. There wasn't a "main" search engine and there were no best practices. There weren't conferences like SearchLove where speakers are "dropping science." It was a collection of tips and tricks. And the lines between white hat and black hat were less clear than they are today.

Yes, back in the day, the search engines were begging to be spammed. Rains says that it wasn't about black hat/white hat. If you found something that worked in all three search engines, you just did it. This is how link farms, search arbitrage, cookie stuffing, domain hi-jacking and cloaking got started, and eventually they came to be labeled as "black hat." At the time, it was just a way to get things done.

And so when search engines started presenting new guidelines, it almost seemed like a joke. SEOs that wanted to push the envelope looked for ways around these guidelines, and boom, black hat was born.

Today, black hat SEO is a much riskier proposition. There are so many more "oh f***" moments than "f*** yeah" moments because of the web spam team at Google headed by Matt Cutts. Bob is showing a menacing picture of Cutts on the screen now and talking about the woe and fear experienced by black hats as web spam became a focus for Google.

It's tempting to go black hat because the prospective payout can be much larger. White hats can have a slow and uphill battle, which adds to the allure of black hat. But it's tougher now because you're much more likely to get caught by Cutts. As tactics become known, you have to do more to cover your tracks on the black hat side. It's now requiring a lot more work to go black hat.

On the other hand, white hats build equity that sticks. You get to serve users, know the product, and do the right thing, and be rewarded indefinitely. With black hat, it's like living a lie that you constantly have to uphold. The long-term value of white hat SEO is something to aspire to.

Ultimately it's about choice and how you want to live your life. Rains joked that he never wants to bounce a kid on his lap and tell him/her that he used to plug holes in the Chinese firewall. That's a not a "My dad's a fireman" type of story.

Bob says black hat still works, but is it worth it? He's asking that question not only on behalf of your client and your domain, but also on a more philosophical level. Do you want to be tirelessly looking for ways to create spammy search engine workarounds, or do you want to be tirelessly looking for that next great piece of content that will make people say wow?

Outreach: Is it All About Hustle

Distilled's Rob Ousbey is up next to talk about outreach. When you think about outreach, you usually think of link building. But Rob's first point is that outreach is about more than just link building. Thinking about it as a higher-level business function, the value of outreach becomes clear.

Outreach is about building relationships, getting coverage and then getting links as a result. Relationships come first and the links will follow. And to do outreach well, you need the right people, as well as a fair amount of hustle.

What makes a great outreach specialist? Smart people who can get things done. People that are just smart are academically interesting, but things don't get done. People that get things done but aren't that smart end up doing a lot of things that aren't particularly useful. Smart people that get things done... seems pretty intuitive.

Other assets of a outreach professional include creativity, ingenuity, Internet savvy, curiosity and passion. Rob's sharing some of Distilled's favorite interviewing questions to tease out whether candidates have these traits. For example, asking people what they've learned recently will help tell you if they're curious enough for outreach.

The best interview technique Distilled employs is the "Internet test." Basically, you give a candidate a computer screen and ask them to do some of the things they say they can. Watching how they surf the web is a good way to determine if they're as Internet savvy as they say they are.

After you have the right people, then you can start your outreach. First, Rob suggests finding your outreach targets. Don't just search for "plumbers." Start with "lists of plumbers" and you'll find a lot more people. Followerwonk is a great tool to find targets, as well as niche directories such as is another great place to find bloggers.

Once you find them, making contact is the next step. If you're only link building, emailing form letters might be the only thing on your mind. But Ousbey stresses the relationship building aspect of outreach. Send short emails to break the ice, then follow up with a more detailed request. You should also be pairing this with other tactics such as following them on Twitter, commenting on their blog, tweeting at them, etc. This isn't begging for links. It's thoughtful and purposeful relationship building.

Sales professionals know that it's critical to overcome objections if you're going to make the sale. Make sure you have ways to overcome webmasters' objections. If someone doesn't have time to build you a link, ask them for a tweet. If someone doesn't like your target page, suggest another one. Figure out the biggest reasons people have to deny you a link and have tactics planned to overcome them.

Different types of people require different treatment. Journalists rarely write a story the first time they get the suggestion. But if you stay on their radar and make sure you have something to offer them, there's a good chance that the relationship will lead to publication and links.

Knowing your VIPs is also an important aspect of outreach. Cultivate brand evangelists and keep them happy. The important thing here is not to forget about people once they've linked to you. Continue cultivating the relationship and watch it grow (along with your link profile).

Rob is now shifting on to metrics. Unique linked domains/hour is a good way to measure outreach efforts. This way you can break down work by tactics, and ultimately help better quantify ROI. Keep a matrix with quality of links and anchor text vs. no anchor text for each outreach effort to see clusters of links and their quality and how they relate to other tactics.

Finally, Ousbey has a few tools to suggest: Buzzstream, ToutApp, Followerwonk and Linkstant.

And the Rest

I didn't cover Michael Gray's session on Wordpress SEO because I'm a Squarespace user. It was a great presentation and Michael really knows his SEO.

Lastly, Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow are doing head-to-head reviews on websites given to them at noon. Four hours later, they're on stage giving their best advice on what two lucky SEOs can do to take their site to the next level. This is the type of session where you really have to be here to understand how awesome SearchLove is.

I've really enjoyed this conference and thank the nice folks at Distilled, the fantastic speakers and many talented colleagues in the SEO industry for making my first bonafide SEO conference something to remember.

Liveblogging from SearchLove New York

Live-blogging from SearchLove New York SEO(This week I'm at the Distilled SearchLove SEO conference in New York. It's my first conference dedicated solely to search engine optimization, and to make sure I get as much value out of it as possible, I'll be live blogging what I learn. Ask questions in the comments and I'll see if I can track down the answers.)

Kicking Things Off

Distilled CEO Duncan Morris kicked things off by asking everyone to turn to a stranger, make an introduction, and hopefully get a link out of the newly-built relationships. Not a bad way to start off the day. Morris gave a smart reminder to attendees - it's one thing to learn it here today, but it's not worth a dime unless we bring it home and do something with it. And with that, we're moving on to the speakers for the day.

The Modern SEO's Toolkit

SEO is just marketing, but with computers. That's how Distilled Founder Will Critchlow opened his presentation. To quote Avinash Kaushik, "Our ability to use APIs, scrapers, multiple tools is going to be super critical." Will flashed a screen of Google Analytics, SEOmoz Pro tools, and several others, but said that this presentation is not about them. This session is about the hammers and screwdrivers of SEO, not the power drills, that are needed to hack together data to drive SEO campaigns.

More and more, we're required to use tools not for the output themselves, but to use the tools' output as input for other tools. It's not that we all have to become developers, but it's important to use developer-like skills to hack things together. These tools should be at the fingertips of modern SEOs.

Will is now turning to some practical examples of how to use data to hack things together. We're not even fifteen minutes into Will's session and we all now know how to install an Ubuntu package on a virtual server to perform work with command lines.

Will is now talking about wireframing tools such as Balsamiq, Skitch and others to take screenshots and annotate them with arrows. SEOs are often much better off communicating requests to developers and clients through tools such as this (and video tools such as Screenr and Camtasia). The theme here is to install and become comfortable with these types of tools so you don't need to learn them when you need them.

You have to use the right tool for the job. When Excel is the right tool, use it. When Amazon's Mechanical Turk is the right tool, use it. There are even tools out there that will help you identify when you have old Google Analytics on pages. Sure, some of them may look like duct tape and chewing gum, but that's part of what made MacGyver awesome. Chrome's Inspect Element feature may be your duct tape. The GA error detecting Chrome extension may be your chewing gum.

With all these hacking techniques, new processes are required to keep us on track. Will's "Why (TF) doesn't it work?" checklist consists of:

  1. Reproduce the issue
  2. Simplify
  3. Isolate
  4. Document
  5. Hack
  6. Sleep, Shower

Now we're getting into JSON and the Twitter API (I loved the AppSumo/Google Docs lessons). Using the Why(TF) process, Will noted that it's not as hard as it seems to run Python code to build your own feeds and data streams. We're watching how to get Python and Django set up right now.

It's not that we need to learn these tools to build our own tools. They're there to help us become better at our jobs as SEOs and to fundamentally better understand how the web works.

The Next Level of Social Integration

Mat Clayton of Mixcloud is up next to talk about recent advancements in social integration. Mat opened with the stat, "One of every seven people in the world log into the Facebook ecosystem at least once a month." Social and social apps is like a freight train and can drive more traffic and conversions than Google according to Clayton's experience. Communications, Games and Media are where this action is the hottest. Designing your product around social is more important now more than ever.

Social media success is like a mountain, and those who win get to the highest ground first. Clayton's first tip is to understand how many people on your site are currently logged into Facebook when they visit your site. If this number is high, social is key to your business (nothing crazy there so far).

Clayton's first big tip is to use the Facebook Insights meta tag on your website. Doing so allows you to see demographic data on all website visitors that are logged into Facebook when they visit your site. And that's just the beginning. There are custom ways to tag the way people interact with you through Facebook on the horizon.

People are users. Social actions are verbs (share, like, upload). Objects are nouns (pages, files, images). Facebook's new features (e.g., Timeline and Ticker) are primed to help you measure these things. What does all this mean?

We'll now be able to tell which types of content and conversations people are engaging with, and more thoughtfully optimize the content, where it lives, and how it's promoted on social media. It seems that Facebook Insights is growing up and will soon deliver amazing qualitative and quantitative data.

Excuse me for a minute while I pick up my jaw. Clayton just showed how authentication with Facebook and building that content into your web page can obliterate bounce rates and do amazing things for time on site. Personalization is hard for so many companies because you have to get the data first. Facebook has that data, why not use it as your de facto personalization engine? Just including pictures of people's friends has profound impacts on conversion rates. The implications of this should open up a flood of new options.

Mat's next tip is the Recommendations Bar, which is currently in beta. This is going to be the next generation of the Like button for any blog and can be installed with one line of JavaScript. When you scroll down through a blog post, a recommendations bar will slide out from the bottom-right side of the screen with thoughtful recommendations powered by Facebook. Surely this will help drive engagement with the mix of relevant and personal recommendations.

Everything's Easier with Fans

SEOmoz CEO and co-founder Rand Fishkin is next up to talk about how community makes SEO easier. Rand is starting off by showing the incredibly high cost of paid media. The basics of branding has gone back to frequency and reach. The more you see a brand in media, the more you'll be able to recall it. You can pay for it (and you'll pay a lot), or you can earn it with inbound marketing and community.

The hardest part of any SEO campaign is link building, and SEOmoz has a button they push when they want more links. It has a label: publish. When you have a community, publishing content and tweeting it is the best way to build links, as is evidenced by a flurry of SEOmoz-related screenshots from Twitter, Facebook and Google Analytics.

Viral Content = Content^Excellent * Community

As you build your community, your content must be amazing to go viral. Not good, not excellent, but amazing. As you build your network, though, the quality of content isn't only what drives viral sharing - it's the community. And as this community grows, the viral effect gets bigger and bigger.

So how do you build community? Curation hubs, social news site, social sharing sites, social discovery sites, content platforms, blogs, Q&A forums, etc. etc. etc. The answer is a mix of content and destination created for the community, not the brand.

The first step of any successful community destination is finding the intersection of what your customers are interested in, and then comparing it to you what you sell and do. The area of overlap (sometimes big, sometimes small) is the prime area to focus community content.

Now, how to build community. First, give as much as you can. Give content, attention, and recognition to all, and pay special attention to influencers (well-known as well as the "chunky middle" of the influence curve) who have built-in audiences and followers with them.

Next, don't launch a wasteland. You don't want people landing on a page with no tweets, likes or comments. You have to plant the seeds (sometimes internally) to show other potential community members that your site is worth it and a destination they want to be a part of.

The biggest barrier to entry to a great community is persistence. It takes an enormous amount of time to get a community rolling. It's like the flywheel concept in Good to Great. But once it starts taking off, all the time and effort is worth it. Keep that in mind as you're putting in the long hours at the onset of new community-building efforts.

A big part of a community is making sure people feel a part of it. Adding sharing options and features that make sense to the community is important. Profile pages are critical, although often receive little-to-no love from most community sites. Profile pages help people give them a sense of belonging within the community, and can be a great source of inbound links. Why wouldn't profile pages be important to you?

Community members long to be acknowledged, yet so few companies respect or pay attention to the fans they have. Take note of your competitors' communities. Can you poach some of their members by giving them the love and attention that your competitor won't? (Personal note: companies that don't treat their communities with the utmost reverance and respect make me cry and a little sick to my stomach).

Once you have a community, then you have to start thinking about things like Community Guidelines. Brands that don't deal with things in a clearly laid out manner can invite all sorts of negative things to your site. Trolls, feelings of nepotism and other bad community mojo can be the result of decisions made that seem inconsistent or unclear.

Community Building Ninja Lightning Round

  1. Write About Other Communities
  2. Name Drop for Google Alert Love
  3. Get Contributions to Content from Other Major Industry Players
  4. Use Social Signals as "Points" in Your Gamification
  5. Create a Common Enemy
  6. Build Smart Notification Systems
  7. Invite-Only is a Powerful Motivator
  8. Help Your Members Become Social Participants
  9. Publish a Single, Popular Feed of Your Content
  10. Get Your Community Searching w/Particular Phrasing to Influence Suggest and Influence
  11. Bolster Thin Content Pages by Pulling External Community Content
  12. Give Users the Power to Share/Embed/Re-Use Things Back on Their Own Site

The power of community comes from its cyclical nature. Everything becomes connected and begins to build upon itself. And that's how you win the Internet.

Winning Local Search With Data

Local SEO is a whole other beast, and that's what David Minchala is ready to talk about. To demonstrate how different it is, Minchala started by showing lists of ranking factors and tools specific to local SEO and then for regular SEO. No surprise, there was very little overlap. To win at local SEO, it requires a different strategy.

Tracking is one of the first differences. For local SEO, volume of tracking data is much often far less than what it is on the rest of the site. Successful business websites may only get a 100 visits locally where they get 1000's of visits otherwise. Local tracking should include third-party data sources to provide more data points.

Where does local data come from? Google Insights for Search is a good way to start, but it shouldn't end there. Minchala brought up the example of searching for "divorce lawyers." According to GIfS, Minnesota was the #1 area for divorce. Upon further digging into U.S. Census data, David found that Minnesota wasn't even in the top ten. It could be that the amount of search volume from this region is due to another reason than just search user demand. Using multiple data points, especially in areas where there isn't as much of it, is a good way to ensure your campaign isn't being side-tracked by bad advice.

Minchala is now moving on to content. Some pages (e.g., services pages) aren't going to drive engagement/conversions, and some types of media (e.g., video) don't have the impact at the local level that they do at the national level. Even blogging and linkbaiting, sacrosanct to most SEO campaigns, should be thought out and not taken at face value just because it works for regular SEO. (I don't even know if I could have typed that with a straight face had I not seen the data David presented). These things have some impact, but you have to consider your playing field and let that drive your priorities.

85% of local business search real estate happens within the Map Pack or in a blended SERP. If that's the case, should "organic" be the #1 priority (not a rhetorical question)? You have to talk to your client to know. What types of jobs, customers and projects do they prefer the most? Local SEO priorities should start here, and drive the local or traditional tactics you focus on from there.

Not only does this type of mindset drive content and link building approaches, but it can do wonders for keyword research as well. Think of the value you can drive by knowing your business or client's best and worst customers and which keywords they use and how this type of data can inform and drive your customer personas.

Minchala is now moving on to tools. A big part of local SEO is local citations. allows users to look at how much variation there is in citations. Variations in citations can be scrubbed out. Finding the variations and making them consistent will strengthen your Google Places page and bolster your local SEO efforts.

Local Search Toolkit is another great tool. This tool allows you to find local competitors by keywords, which categories they're using, and other valuable espionage-type data.

Other tools David recommends are American Fact Finder, Whitespark and the SEO Tools Plugin. Ultimately, David's session was about using local SEO tools to gather multiple data points and then using that data to create a strategy around your business or client's specific goals and customers. And now for lunch...

Mining Social Data for SEO and Profit

The first post-lunch session is being presented by Laura Lippay from How's Your Pony? She's here to talk about using social data to incorporate into your SEO campaign. Lippay's first main point is that many people focus on SEO tactics that don't require them to leave their site. Laura says that great SEO requires competitive analysis and intelligence, and she's got some tools that will help us out.

Social monitoring tools help us find people and conversations as well as which users have "social mojo" and why you should care. And this is all in the name of increasing the quality of your site and the experience of your community. Much like Will's session was about hacking data together to form insights on the SEO side, Laura provided a few examples of how performing some simple research tasks in social tools can better inform search and social campaigns.

The first part of social competitive analysis is to determine share of voice (Laura has a great template for all of what's to come, available on for her client and her clients' competitors.

Then, dig in to social activity on all relevant social networks and record what you find there as well. This step will require going to competitors' sites and social outposts and should lend some amazing insights. Take note of what's working and what isn't and bring this back to the client.

Next, grab all the public traffic data (e.g., through Compete) and link data (e.g., SEOmoz Pro Tools) and record that as well. You're building a complete picture of the industry, the players in it, and what people think of the players. I like where this is going.

Finally, it's time to grab positive and negative sentiment for each player in the space. While sentiment isn't always reliable on an individual mention basis (read: you still have to do the manual work to inspect for validity), aggregate sentiment date through tools such as NetBase can help demonstrate what people like the most and hate the worst about companies in a particular space.

Lippay is now going into the amazing insights provided by this type of sentiment data. She rolls sentiment up into themes and there are insights galore. She's using auto dealers as her example, but just think of all the things you could do if you knew why your customers liked or didn't like your competitors. I'm guessing this is where and how Laura finds a lot of ponies.

It doesn't stop at sentiment. Laura's now suggesting tools such as Get Satisfaction for finding out what your competitors' customers are asking them to do. You'll be a hero if you can release features or address issues sooner than your competitors, and social media data can help you figure out what these things are.

Finally, some of these tools are great to determine demographics about your users. Understand which content does better with men vs. women or old vs. young. You get the idea.

Complete Laura's worksheet and you'll be well on your way to dominating your competitors with the help of all the awesome competitive social media data.

The Past, Present and Future of Link Bait

Now up is Distilled's Rob Millard to talk about the next best thing in link bait. For starters, Rob points out how formerly great tactics, such as infographics, are now not as great as they once were because so many of them are done poorly and without thought. Two years ago, infographics barely showed up on Google Insights for Search. Now they're everywhere. Rob's request to us: Let's stop!

Link bait is a game of just right. Too little creativity or effort can be just as detrimental as too much.

You also have to have the right hook (check out Distilled's link bait guide for ideas in this area.). Getting people interested and then motivating them to include a link is not an easy game. People are motivated by looking good, feeling good, saving time, etc. If you want your link bait to work, infographic or any other tactic, you have to have a good hook.

Millard next talked about the production. Link bait can be the idea of one or two people, but often you'll be only one person in a multi-step approval process. Getting sign-off and buy-in is critical or your link bait may end up being chum instead.

To truly understand why link bait such as infographics work, it's important to check out works by the likes of Tufte, McCandless and the Heath brothers. If SEO is part art, part science, you'll find a bit of both in visualization resources.

What does it take to create a great infographic? For starters, you need great data. In this area, you can use your own or fetch it through APIs, open data sources (e.g., or surveys. If you don't have access to the data, go out and get your own dataset.

Once you have the data, then you should be asking questions: Is this worth visualization? Does it make complex data easier to understand? Does it make something boring exciting? Could it just be a blog post?

Once you have the data and you think you want to make the infographic, take ten minutes to brainstorm ten link prospects for your infographic. If you can't think of outreach prospects, you probably don't have a hit infographic on your hands.

Rob talked a bit about Distilled's production process and then changed gears to talk about outreach. Rob's slide on outreach templates showed different approaches for different outreach prospects based on their ability to multiply the outreach and the quality of links they'll lead to. This was especially helpful information to get the most out of your outreach efforts.

What's next for the world of infographics and link bait? HTML5 and CSS3 are changing the nature of infographics and taking them to the next level by adding in personalization, real-time elements and interactivity. These change will also lend to new ways to ask your users to share them.

The data and formats may change in the future, but you'll be more likely to see success if you come up with a great answer to: What's your hook?

Surprising Lessons from Growing Facebook, and AppSumo

Noah Kagan is now up and he's going to share a lot of what he learned in with his marketing efforts. Out of respect for his wishes to keep some of this available only to conference attendees (paired with my novice ability as a liveblogger), I'm not going to be liveblogging this session. But I promise you, it's amazing already.

Your Content Strategy is Part of Your Link Building Strategy

I've heard many good things about Wil Reynolds (of Seer Interactive) and now he's presenting on the overlap between content strategy and link building. Wil started out with the the sad reality that, despite many of the great social signals sent by the best blogs out there, the sites with the perfect-anchor-text-crap-on-the-page are still winning in a lot of cases.

As if to prove this point, Wil points to Google's lackluster advancements to Feedburner and Google Reader and how the company has done nothing to use the data within to improve the search algorithms. They've had Feedburner for five years, and they've done nothing. It's a sobering reminder that social isn't the only answer to search. That said, Wil has amped the room up and is ready to get cooking on some of his favorite tactics.

Reynolds's first example comes from broken link reports. When you find out that links are no longer where they once were, it spells opportunity. You can swoop in and ask sites to link to your site if you have a better resource. If you like the people whose links are broken, you can inform them. They make the change, and in doing so you can build relationships, which of course lead to new links.

Reynolds is now talking about the mistakes big brands make because they're big. They have big budgets and slow internal processes. As a result, micro-sites are common on the Internet. Smart SEOs swoop in when these micro-sites expire with tools such as You Get Signal ( and buy them. These can be amazing sources of links that can carry great authority or, even better, links that come directly from your competitor.

Next up, Google Suggest vs. Google Product Suggest. One screenshot was all it took to illustrate the point that the results aren't always the same and can yield great new keywords as a result. For example, adding the year after products in an e-commerce title tag is a good way to leverage new query data on current pages (e.g., running shoes 2012).

Wil loved PostRank when it used to be as simple as dropping in a URL. This trick let Reynolds find popular content on other blogs rather easily to better inform his content strategy efforts. He showed a work-around that allows folks to still use PostRank, but now he recommends Topsy for this same purpose. Finding the best content on blogs helps you find the best guest authors and ideas for your own blog.

Reynolds's is focusing next on inforgraphics with an awesome fail-proof tactic. Find long blog posts out there with comments and turn them into infographics. The folks who stick around and comment on these long posts are the same folks that will link to you.

Another infographic tactic is to pay to have it placed. "But isn't that black hat?" Wil asked. If that's black hat, then Forbes, Bloomberg, and all the others are black hatters because they take on paid editorials all the time. How is a paid infographic anything other than paid placement.

Yet another infographic involves taking other companies/organizations' data and turning them into infographics. Many government and non-profit companies will commission or report on data, but they leave out the sizzle. Repackage this data for amazing infographic opportunities.

Moving on from infographics, Wil is talking about how to use to leverage your follower data for SEO. You can download all of your followers and their bio data in an Excel spreadsheet. Drop that in a tag cloud tool like TagCrowd or Wordle and now you've done hours of qualitative research on your followers in a matter of a few minutes.

A really smart, yet easy influencer outreach tip is to go to Quora and export the feeds of your target influencer. You now have an ongoing feed that will tell you exactly what interests these people and what they'll answer on Quora. If you're stuck on ideas for your own content, this approach will surely give you some new ideas that are perfect for your target guest bloggers and link prospects.

(Note: <4% of iPad battery left, so this post may cut out as I'm typing. I'll bring my cord for day two of SearchLove New York. If my worst mistake liveblogging today was running out of power, I'm probably doing OK.)

Give It Up

This session is strictly "no tweeting or liveblogging." Everyone is getting up to the stage to share their super secret sauce with conference attendees. And that's one of the many reasons a liveblog is cool, but not nearly as cool as being here in person.

An Amazing First Day

For my first bonafide SEO conference, Distilled's SearchLove New York is about as awesome as I could have expected. Awesome people, information, venue and extras have on SEO geek cloud nine. More to come tomorrow during day two of SearchLove!