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Category Archives: Markethive-Social

A Definition of Advertising I

A Definition of Advertising I

How advertising works requires a definition of what advertising is.

One definition of advertising is: "Advertising is the nonpersonal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various media."(Bovee, 1992, p. 7) So much for academic doubletalk. Now let's take this statement apart and see what it means.

NONPERSONAL

First, what is "nonpersonal"? There are two basic ways to sell anything: personally and nonpersonally. Personal selling requires the seller and the buyer to get together. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The first advantage is time: the seller has time to discuss in detail everything about the product. The buyer has time to ask questions, get answers, examine evidence for or against purchase.

A second advantage of personal selling is that the seller can see you. The person rhe's selling to. Rhe can see your face, see how the sales message is getting across. If you yawn or your eyes shift away, you're obviously bored, and the seller can change approach. Rhe can also see if you're hooked, see what features or benefits have your attention, and emphasize them to close the sale.

Finally, the seller can easily locate potential buyers. If you enter a store, you probably have an interest in something that store sells. Street vendors and door-to-door sellers can simply shout at possibilities, like the Hyde Park (London) vendors who call out, "I say there, Guv'nor, can you use a set of these dishes?", or knock at the door and start their spiel with an attention grabber. From there on they fit their message to the individual customer, taking all the time a customer is willing to give them.

Disadvantages do exist. Personal selling is, naturally enough, expensive, since it is labor-intensive and deals with only one buyer at a time. Just imagine trying to sell chewing gum or guitar picks one-on-one; it would cost a dollar a stick or pick.

In addition, its advantage of time is also a disadvantage. Personal selling is time-consuming. Selling a stereo or a car can take days, and major computer and airplane sales can take years.

Nonetheless, although personal selling results in more rejections than sales, and can be nerve-racking, frustrating and ego destroying for the salesperson, when the salesperson is good it is more directed and successful than advertising.

From the above, it appears that personal selling is much better than advertising, which is nonpersonal. This is true. Advertising has none of the advantages of personal selling: there is very little time in which to present the sales message, there is no way to know just who the customer is or how rhe is responding to the message, the message cannot be changed in mid-course to suit the customer's reactions.

Then why bother with advertising? Because its advantages exactly replace the disadvantages of personal selling, and can emulate some of the advantages. First let's look at the latter.

First, advertising has, comparatively speaking, all the time in the world. Unlike personal selling, the sales message and its presentation does not have to be created on the spot with the customer watching. It can be created in as many ways as the writer can conceive, be rewritten, tested, modified, injected with every trick and appeal known to affect consumers. (Some of the latter is the content of this book.)

Second, although advertisers may not see the individual customer, nor be able to modify the sales message according to that individual's reactions at the time, it does have research about customers. The research can identify potential customers, find what message elements might influence them, and figure out how best to get that message to them. Although the research is meaningless when applied to any particular individual, it is effective when applied to large groups of customers.

Third, and perhaps of most importance, advertising can be far cheaper per potential customer than personal selling. Personal selling is extremely labor-intensive, dealing with one customer at a time. Advertising deals with hundreds, thousands, or millions of customers at a time, reducing the cost per customer to mere pennies. In fact, advertising costs are determined in part using a formula to determine, not cost per potential customer, but cost per thousand potential customers.

Thus, it appears that advertising is a good idea as a sales tool. For small ticket items, such as chewing gum and guitar picks, advertising is cost effective to do the entire selling job. For large ticket items, such as cars and computers, advertising can do a large part of the selling job, and personal selling is used to complete and close the sale.

Advertising is nonpersonal, but effective.

COMMUNICATION

Communication means not only speech or pictures, but any way one person can pass information, ideas or feelings to another. Thus communication uses all of the senses: smell, touch, taste, sound and sight. Of the five, only two are really useful in advertising — sound and sight.

Smell

Smell is an extremely strong form of communication. However, when it comes to advertising, it is not very useful. A smell can immediately evoke memories. Remember times when you've smelled something and what memories came to your mind. The smell could be a perfume or aftershave that reminds you of Sheila or George. It could be popcorn, newly mown grass, char-broiling steak, or roses. Any smell can conjure up a memory for you.

However, that is smell's greatest problem for advertising. Although a smell can evoke a memory, everyone's memories are different. For example, the smell of hay in a cow barn always reminds me of my grandfather's farm in Indiana and the fun I had there as a child. To others, however, that same smell makes them think a cow had an accident in the living room, not at all the same response as mine. If an advertiser wanted to make me nostalgic about farms and grandparents, the smell would be perfect. To others the smell might evoke ideas of cow accidents or the pain of having to buck bales on a hot summer day, neither image of much use in making a product appealing.

The point is, the effect of using smell in advertising cannot be controlled by the advertiser. Although many people smell the same things, what they associate with those smells varies with each person. Without some control, smell is a very weak form of communication for advertising.

Touch

Touch has a limitation that makes it of little use to advertising — the customer has to come in actual contact with the item to be touched. Thus the item must actually exist and be put in a medium that can carry it. This puts touch more in the realm of personal selling than advertising.

It is possible to use touch for a limited number of products. For example, samples of cloth or paper can be bound into magazines. The potential customer can thus feel percale or the texture of corduroy, tell through touch the difference between slick magazine stock, embossing, Classic Laid or 100% rag paper. However, for the majority of products touch is useless for advertising.

Taste

Taste is probably the least useful communication channel available to advertising. Like touch, taste requires the potential customer to come in actual physical contact with the product. However, taste is even more limited than touch. There are few products other than food for which taste is a major selling point, and there is virtually no medium in which an ad can be placed that people are likely to lick; I'm sure few people are going to lick a magazine page or the TV screen, nor get much sense of what the product tastes like from them. It is possible to use direct mail, sending samples to homes, but that is an expensive way to advertise.

Thus, taste is much more effective in personal selling, such as sampling foods in supermarkets or in door-to-door sales.The remaining two senses, sound and sight, are the most effective and easily used channels of communication available to advertising. For these reasons virtually all advertising relies on them.

Sound

Sound is extremely useful for advertising. It can be used in a variety of media, from radio and television to the new technology of binding micro-sound chips in magazines to present 20-second sales messages. It is also capable of presenting words and "theatre of the mind."

Words, the method by which humans communicate their ideas and feelings, are presented by sound, by speaking aloud. Through the use of words it is possible to deliver logical arguments, discuss pros and cons, and evoke emotions.

More, through the use of sound it is possible to create what is called "the theatre of the mind." What this means is that sound can conjure in the listener's mind images and actions that don't necessarily exist. For example, if you want to create before the mind's eye the image of a party, you need merely use the sound effects of people talking and laughing, the tinkle of glasses and ice, perhaps music in the background. Even easier, tape record a party and play it back. To evoke images of a soft spring day the sounds of a breeze rustling leaves, the chirrup of insects, the soft call of birds is sufficient. The listener's mind will take those sounds, combine them, make sense of them, and create an image suited to their individual taste.  For example, a beer commercial may play the sounds of a bar in the background, and the listener may imagine themselves in their own favorite bar, and perhaps ordering that brand of beer. Thus sound, in the forms of words and effects, are quite useful to the advertiser in affecting a listener.

Sight

Sight is arguably the most useful of the communication channels available to the advertiser. Through sight it is possible to use both words and images effectively.

Words do not have to be spoken to be understood. They can be printed, as well. Although it is difficult to put in written words the emotional impact possible in spoken words, with their inflections and subtle sound cues, nevertheless written words are unsurpassed for getting across and explaining complex ideas or arguments.

There is an additional factor in sight that makes it excellent for advertising. The old cliché, "A picture is worth a thousand words," is correct. Think how long it takes to describe something as opposed to showing a picture of it. No matter how many words you use, some details will be left out that are visible at a glance. Thus sight can quickly and concisely show a customer what the advertiser wants rher to see, be it a product or how buying the product can benefit rher.

In addition, the mind does not have to consciously recognize what the eye sees for it to have an effect on the subconscious. An advertiser can put many inconspicuous details into a picture that will affect a customer on the subconscious level. For example, a drop of water on a rose petal may not consciously register ("I see there's a drop of water on this rose"), but will unconsciously leave an impression of freshness and delicacy. A small child looking upward into the camera, unsmiling and eyes wide, gives an impression of sadness and vulnerability, not shortness.

The five forms of human communication can be used to send any message to potential customers. However, not all five are equal. Smell, touch and taste are of little use, but sound and sight are of great value and effectiveness.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Some Reasons Why Your Business Should Invest In SEO

Some Reasons Why Your Business Should Invest In SEO

The term “Is SEO dead?” and what comes back in return is over 44 million references including the aptly titled article of the same name by fellow Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers. In his article, Demers shares a conversation he had with Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUDU Marketing and a widely published expert in the SEO field.

When queried if in fact, SEO is dead, McRoberts said “SEO is far from dead” but added the caveat that “it’s changed so drastically that people really need to learn to think of it as less of a marketing tactic, and more of a branding play.” Not sure I agree with that assessment but regardless of that and contrary to what you may have read recently, organic search engine optimization is far from dead.

In fact, many companies, including the LLondon-based SEO agency – Go Up, are making a renewed commitment to investing into developing solid, SEO optimized web infrastructure that is search-engine friendly, given the engines’ continued commitment to improving their algorithms over time.

Here’s a list of seven specific reasons why your business should definitely consider investing in your organic SEO:

 
  1. It still works – First and foremost, the techniques employed to improve SEO still work. Even though data regarding organic traffic from Google was pulled fairly recently, the techniques themselves remain sound. Plenty of SEO case studies performed post-Hummingbird can verify this. Joshua Guerra, CEO of marketing firm BIZCOR says “As long as you are focusing on optimal user experience while performing methodic SEO strategies, you will be rewarded with higher positioning and organic traffic.”
  2. It is not going to stop working any time soon – Based on the way search engines appear to be developing, it is not likely that SEO will cease to be effective any time in the foreseeable future. On some level, even audio and video searches ultimately depend on keywords the same as traditional text-based content; this link ensures the continued success of SEO techniques as long as it exists.
  1. It is cost-effective – Compared to the costs associated with other forms of online marketing such as PPC advertising, social media marketing, or purchasing leads for an email marketing program, SEO provides fairly good ROI. While PPC may drive more revenue and social media may be more important for your image, your organic SEO in many ways remains a bedrock of your online presence.
  2. Search engines grabbing more market share – Somewhere between 80-90% of customers now check online reviews prior to making a purchase, and this number is only expected to increase. It won’t be long before virtually everyone is searching for products and services online. Do you want them to be able to locate your business, or not?  Without organic SEO in place, people will have a very hard time finding you and will instead find your competitors.
  3. Rise of mobile bandwidth and local search optimization – Later this year, the amount of traffic delivered to mobile devices is expected to exceed that delivered to traditional desktop devices. With this dramatic explosion in mobile usage, a whole new world of effective SEO techniques have opened up for companies, such as local search optimization.
  4. Not having a healthy content profile is damaging – With each and every update to its search algorithm, Google and other engines change the way they look at websites. Things which didn’t exist a few years ago, such as social media indicators, are now given fairly high importance in terms of their impact on your rankings. Not building a healthy content profile spread out months and years is potentially damaging to your business, as it is one of the factors Google evaluates when looking at your site.
  5. Your competitors are doing it – “Remember, SEO is a never-ending process,” says Jason Bayless, Owner of BestSeoCompanies.com, a website which tracks and ranks the efficacy and service of many of the nation’s leading SEO providers. “If you’re not moving forward and improving your position, you’re losing ground to a competitor who is. That’s a simple fact of how the process works.”  Don’t let your competitors out maneuver you by ignoring this valuable tool for your business.

Investing in organic SEO is more important now than ever before, despite the current difficulty everyone finds themselves facing regarding the lack of organic keyword data and traffic. Your business definitely needs to have an SEO strategy in place if you are interested in succeeding in terms of online marketing; it remains one of the single most important components of any organization’s branding efforts and online presence.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Develop Leadership Skills by Mentoring

 Develop Leadership Skills by Mentoring

Mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The receiver of mentorship was traditionally referred to as a protégé or apprentice. Today, the term "mentee" is gaining acceptance and becoming widely used.

There are several definitions of mentoring. Foremost, mentoring involves communication and is relationship based. In the organizational setting, mentoring can take many forms. The formal definition that best describes mentoring is as follows:

"Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé or mentee)." (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007)

Organizations have started to see the value of mentoring for enhancing work life, performance, commitment and job satisfaction. When mentoring is implemented successfully, there are measurable improvements in employee performance, retention, employee commitment to the organization, knowledge sharing, leadership growth and succession planning.

A mentor is a person who gives another person the benefit of his or her years of experience and/or education. This experience is shared in such a way that the mentor helps to develop a mentee's skills and abilities, benefiting the mentee and the organization.

A good mentoring relationship is identified by the willingness and capability of both parties to ask questions, challenge assumptions and disagree. It’s important to note that there's no one way to mentor. Every mentoring relationship is as unique as the individuals involved.

The mentor is far less likely to have a direct-line relationship with the mentee, and in a mentoring relationship this distance is desirable. Mentoring is rarely a critical part of an individual’s job role, but rather an extra element that rewards the mentor with fresh thinking as well as the opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience to a less experienced colleague, peer or employee.

The Difference between Mentoring and Coaching

Coaching is not the same as mentoring. Mentoring is concerned with the development of the whole person and is driven by the person’s own work/life goals. It is usually unstructured and informal. Mentors focus on the person (the mentee), that person’s career, and support for individual growth and maturity.

Coaching is much more about achieving specific objectives in a particular way. Coaching also is more formal and more structured, usually around a coaching process or methodology. Typically, coaching is job focused and performance oriented.

The Mentoring Process is a Two-way Street with Mutual Responsibilities

For mentoring to be successful, the mentor and mentee must collaborate on the process. The first meeting should be a face-to-face meeting where the following criteria are determined:

  • The goals for the mentee
  • The scope of responsibilities each person is assuming
  • Time commitments agreed to by both parties
  • Logistics of the process (how, when and where meetings and communications will take place)
  • Agreement on the definition of confidential information and how that information will be addressed throughout the process
  • Topics or issues that are outside of the mentoring boundaries
  • The process for dealing with conflicts and/or obstacles that may arise during the mentoring process
  • How and when to end the relationship

Effective Mentoring

The following guidelines describe an effective mentoring relationship

  • The mentee has no direct-line reporting to the mentor. This fosters trust, and the mentee feels more comfortable in sharing uncertainties about his or her abilities, creating free-flowing, open communication.
  • The mentor/mentee relationship is mutually satisfying. The mentor gets the satisfaction of watching someone grow who values his or her insights. The mentee gains a feeling of being valued, receiving beneficial direction and attention from someone who he or she respects and admires.
  • The intensity of the relationship is matched. It is taking up actual and mental time in proportions with which both people are comfortable. This time commitment is flexible as the mentee's needs change. Sometimes several meetings are necessary during a very challenging period, then none for months.
  • At any time, either party can stop the relationship and the mentoring process. There is no obligation for acontinuance.
  • An effective mentor gives wise counsel, and the mentee feels comfortable speaking on issues that may be sensitive. Once this trust is developed, the mentor can give advice or assist with tough recommendations.
  • The mentor is not mentoring two people at the same time who have a close working relationship. Discretion and confidentiality are paramount. The rules of engagement are stated up front with an agreement between the mentor and the mentee on who should be aware of the mentoring relationship.
  • The obligation for continuing is two-sided. When the mentor feels he or she has value to add and the mentee is getting something from the relationship, the mentoring may go on indefinitely, or either side can end it without justification.
  • Mentoring programs are about guidance and facilitation rather than formal training.

How Mentoring Relationships Go Wrong

There are several reasons that a mentoring relationship may fail. Since a successful mentoring relationship is built on trust and the mutual commitment for both parties to hold up their end of the agreement, it is not surprising that the circumstances for failed mentoring are directly related to the failure in the relationship between the mentor and the mentee.

The following is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal report in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management Review dated Monday, May 24, 2010.

  • Conflict in values: This type of conflict creates a lack of trust or rapport between the two parties. If neither the mentor nor the mentee is able to bend or compromise, they may find themselves unable to work together effectively.
  • Neglect of the mentee: If the mentor does not show an active interest in the mentee and act in positive ways to advance his or her career, this neglect can erode the mentee’s trust and faith in the mentor. Most mentors go into the relationship sincerely intending to give the mentee what he or she needs to succeed. It may be that the mentor’s schedule interferes with his or her availability, or the mentor may be experiencing excessive challenges with his or her own career, creating the feeling of neglect and frustration on the part of the mentee.
  • Mentors who manipulate the mentee: Mentee manipulation is most common when the mentor is the mentee’s direct supervisor or an upper supervisor from the same department. Manipulation comes in three forms:
    • Tyranny – This form of management by intimidation is a complaint that is often heard from mentees. For example, a mentor may threaten to demote a mentee unless he or she pulls an all-nighter to fix a problem created by the mentor.
    • Inappropriate Delegation – This includes requiring the mentee to do work that the mentor should be doing or withholding assignments that are coveted by the mentee and that would promote the mentee’s growth and development.
    • Politicking – This involves malicious acts like sabotage and taking undue credit with the intention of harming the mentee’s reputation, usually with the intention of making the mentor look good.
  • Mentees who manipulate the mentor: Although mentees have fewer resources at their disposal, mentor manipulation is not unusual. For example, the mentee may be attributing failures to the mentor and success to himself or herself in order to look good to senior management. This form of manipulation allows the mentee to use the mentor to forward his or her own advancement at the expense of the mentor.
  • Sabotage against mentors: When a mentee attempts to damage the career of the mentor, it is often revenge motivated. The mentee may be trying to retaliate for being passed over for promotion, for example. The mentee may blame the mentor for failure to achieve his or her goals. At times, the sabotage may be unintentional, e.g., the mentor may have stepped up to recommend the mentee for a higher or more responsible position. If the mentee fails, this may reflect poorly on the mentor.
  • Submissive mentees: This is usually a case where the mentee relies too heavily on the mentor, and the mentee’s abilities for independent thinking and growth are stifled. This situation also may cause the mentor to inadvertently take control in an effort to ensure the success of the mentee. In either case, the mentee’s ability to grow and prosper can be hindered.

So, how do you avoid the pitfalls of bad mentoring relationships?

  1. Provide support and training for mentors and mentees: Whether the company has a formal or informal mentoring program, mentors should go through a training program prior to taking on mentoring responsibilities. Support must be provided where the mentor or mentee can seek advice or assistance if either party feels that the relationship is not progressing in a positive way.
  2. Recruit right-fit mentors: People who volunteer to be a mentor are more likely to put in the time and effort and have the right skills for mentoring. Mandating that a person take on a mentoring role is a sure way to create failure.
  3. Match the mentor with the mentee: Make sure that the mentor and the mentee have things in common and have shared values, creating mentoring relationships that are more likely to succeed.
  4. Provide feedback: Mentors can share appraisals and progress with the mentee’s supervisor, who has a vested interest in the mentee’s progress and development. Someone from human resources also should be in the loop in the event that problems arise.
  5. Prepare for the end: To avoid hurt feelings, everyone should be prepared to understand that mentoring eventually ends. When the mentor has shared all he or she can share and/or the mentee has learned all he or she can from this mentor, it is time to end the mentorship. Preparing in advance will help to avoid hurt feelings when the time comes.

If you are considering seeking out a mentor, here are seven tips for maximizing your mentoring experience:

  • Know your goals.
  • Choose the best mentor to meet your goals.
  • Begin your mentoring relationship by discussing mutual goals and expectations.
  • Practice the highest standards of professionalism.
  • Learn to accept and give feedback.
  • Practice good communication.
  • Recognize that your success is your responsibility.

If you are considering becoming a mentor, below are some of the benefits of mentoring:

  • Learning new things about yourself: The self-reflection that can result from a mentoring relationship can be a powerful growth experience, giving you new and revealing insights about yourself, your skills and your experience.
  • Satisfaction of passing on knowledge
  • Contributing to the success of your organization by developing others
  • Acquiring new knowledge: Often, the mentor also learns new skills and ideas from his or her mentee.
  • Expanding your networking contacts
  • Building confidence
  • Assists you in staying current with issues and developments in the next generation of professionals and within your company

In today’s business environment, everyone has more work to perform, more responsibilities and more stress. Given this, you may ask yourself, "Why would I want to create additional time commitments on my schedule to become a mentor?" The simple answer is that mentors, through the process of mentoring, learn to be stronger leaders by developing exceptional interpersonal skills. Through the mentoring relationship, mentors often discover new resources in the form of innovative and creative ideas that are presented during the mentoring learning process and improved human resources through the development of promising new talent.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

Effective Mentoring Skills

 Effective Mentoring Skills

There are many questions from mentors, mentorees, and mentoring program managers on what they need to do in order to have a successful mentoring relationship and an overall successful program. So we thought we'd devote this month's "Mentoring Minute" to Effective Mentoring Skills. It's important to note that you won't master these skills overnight. In fact, some of these skills are ones we'll all be working on throughout our lives. That said, we've found that the mentors and mentorees who embrace these skills sooner rather than later are the ones who experience the most success in their mentoring relationship.

 Open mindedness.
By far, one of the most important skills you need to have is the ability to keep an open mind. We all come to the mentoring "table" with our own thoughts, our own value system, and our own prejudices. This is normal: it's called being human. But the purpose of mentoring is to transform…not only the mentoree, but also the mentor. For this to occur, everyone needs to open their minds to new ways of thinking. It's not always easy, and it will likely be an ongoing process throughout the mentoring relationship. The point is to be aware of what you're thinking…and how it's affecting the relationship.

Active listening.
There are two types of listening: active and passive, and their definitions are just as their names imply. When you actively listen, you're fully engaged with the other person. You're focused on what he or she is saying, and you reinforce what the person is saying by offering nonverbal cues, such as eye contact and nodding your head. Active listeners are alert, sit up straight, ask questions, and show their sincere interest in what  other people are saying. Both mentors and mentorees need to engage in active listening with one another.

 Tough questioning.
The way to dig deeper into an issue is by asking questions, and sometimes the most important questions are hard to ask. Ask them anyway. Do so with diplomacy and tact, of course, but go ahead and ask.

Total honesty.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous skill. If you ask a tough question — or if you're asked a tough question — be prepared to hear honest answers (or to deliver honest answers). It's not always easy to be completely honest, but it's important. Of course, to be honest, you need to feel safe.

Deeper reflection and self-awareness.
You ask a tough question, you hear an honest answer, and now what? This is where reflection and self-awareness come in. It's easy to want to move away from the challenging conversations and onto easier subjects. But the most successful mentoring relationship won't allow for this. Instead, mentors and mentorees will take time to reflect on what's been discussed. This is important because when we're discussing difficult issues, we can often slip into defense mode in the heat of the moment. Taking time to reflect, however, can help us avoid knee-jerk reactions and, instead, help us grow. Which is the whole point, right?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Growing Popularity and Links

Growing Popularity and Links

For search engines that crawl the vast metropolis of the web, links are the streets between pages. Using sophisticated link analysis, the engines can discover how pages are related to each other and in what ways.

Since the late 1990s, search engines have treated links as votes for popularity and importance in the ongoing democratic opinion poll of the web. The engines themselves have refined the use of link data to a fine art, and use complex algorithms to perform nuanced evaluations of sites and pages based on this information.

Links aren't everything in SEO, but search professionals attribute a large portion of the engines' algorithms to link-related factors. Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity websites and pages based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while spammy sites receive very few links from trusted sources. Authority models, like those postulated in the suggestion, that links are a very good way of identifying expert documents on a given subject.

Link Signals

Used by search engines

How do search engines assign values to links? To answer this, we need to explore the individual elements of a link and look at how the search engines assess these elements. We don't fully understand the proprietary metrics that search engines use, but through analysis of patent applications, years of experience, and hands-on testing, we can draw some intelligent assumptions that hold up in the real world. Below is a list of notable factors worthy of consideration. These signals and  more are considered by professional SEOs when measuring link value and a site's link profile. You may also enjoy some further on the Moz Blog reading about search engine valuation of links.

Global Popularity

The more popular and important a site is, the more links from that site matter. A site like Wikipedia has thousands of diverse sites linking to it, which means it's probably a popular and important site. To earn trust and authority with the engines, you'll need the help of other link partners. The more popular, the better.

Local/Topic-Specific Popularity

The concept of "local" popularity, first pioneered by the Teoma search engine, suggests that links from sites within a topic-specific community matter more than links from general or off-topic sites. For example, if your website sells dog houses, a link from the Society of Dog Breeders matters much more than one from a site about roller skating.

Anchor Text

One of the strongest signals the engines use in rankings is anchor text. If dozens of links point to a page with the right keywords, that page has a very good probability of ranking well for the targeted phrase in that anchor text. You can see examples of this in action with searches, where many results rank solely due to the anchor text of inbound links.

TrustRank

It's no surprise that the Internet contains massive amounts of spam. Some estimate as much as 60% of the web's pages are spam. In order to weed out this irrelevant content, search engines use systems for measuring trust, many of which are based on the link graph. Earning links from highly trusted domains can result in a significant boost to this scoring metric. Universities, government websites, and non-profit organizations represent examples of high-trust domains.

Link Neighborhood

Spam links often go both ways. A website that links to spam is likely spam itself, and in turn, often has many spam sites linking back to it. By looking at these links in the aggregate, search engines can understand the "link neighborhood" in which your website exists. Thus, it's wise to choose those sites you link to carefully and be equally selective with the sites you attempt to earn links from.

Freshness

Link signals tend to decay over time. Sites that were once popular often go stale, and eventually, fail to earn new links. Thus, it's important to continue earning additional links over time. Commonly referred to as "FreshRank," search engines use the freshness signals of links to judge current popularity and relevance.

Social Sharing

The last few years have seen an explosion in the amount of content shared through social services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Although search engines treat socially shared links differently than other types of links, they notice them nonetheless. There is much debate among search professionals as to how exactly search engines factor social link signals into their algorithms, but there is no denying the rising importance of social channels.

 
The Concept of Trustrank

Link Building Basics

Link building is an art. It's almost always the most challenging part of an SEO's job, but also the one most critical to success. Link building requires creativity, hustle, and often, a budget. No two link building campaigns are the same, and the way you choose to build links depends as much upon your website as it does your personality. Below are three basic types of link acquisition.

  1.  "Natural" Editorial LinksLinks that are given naturally by sites and pages that want to link to your content or company. These links require no specific action from the SEO, other than the creation of worthy material (great content) and the ability to create awareness about it.
  2.  Manual "Outreach" Link BuildingThe SEO creates these links by emailing bloggers for links, submitting sites to directories, or paying for listings of any kind. The SEO often creates a value proposition by explaining to the link target why creating the link is in their best interest. Examples include filling out forms for submissions to a website award program or convincing a professor that your resource is worthy of inclusion on the public syllabus.
  3.  Self-Created, Non-EditorialHundreds of thousands of websites offer any visitor the opportunity to create links through guest book signings, forum signatures, blog comments, or user profiles. These links offer the lowest value, but can, in the aggregate, still have an impact for some sites. In general, search engines continue to devalue most of these types of links and have been known to penalize sites that pursue these links aggressively. Today, these types of links are often considered spammy and should be pursued with caution.
It's up to you, as an SEO, to select which of these will have the highest return on the effort invested. As a general rule, it's wise to build as vast and varied a link profile as possible, as this brings the best search engine results. Any link building pattern that appears non-standard, unnatural, or manipulative will eventually become a target for advancing search algorithms to discount.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

Keyword Research

Keyword Research

It all begins with words typed into a search box.

Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. By researching your market's keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.

It's not always about getting visitors to your site, but about getting the right kind of visitors. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated; with keyword research, you can predict shifts in demand, respond to changing market conditions, and produce the products, services, and content that web searchers are actively seeking. In the history of marketing, there has never been such a low barrier to entry in understanding the motivations of consumers in virtually any niche.

How to Judge the Value of a Keyword

How much is a keyword worth to your website? If you own an online shoe store, do you make more sales from visitors searching for "brown shoes" or "black boots"? The keywords visitors type into search engines is often available to webmasters, and keyword research tools allow us to find this information. However, those tools cannot show us directly how valuable it is to receive traffic from those searches. To understand the value of a keyword, we need to understand our own websites, make some hypotheses, test, and repeat—the classic web marketing formula.

A basic process for assessing a keyword’s value        

Ask yourself…

Is the keyword relevant to your website's content? Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using these keywords? Will they be happy with what they find? Will this traffic result in financial rewards or other organizational goals? If the answer to all of these questions is a clear "Yes!" then proceed …

Search for the term/phrase in the major engines

Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads mean a high-value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often mean a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.

Buy a sample campaign for the keyword at Google AdWords and/or Bing Adcenter

If your website doesn't rank for the keyword, you can nonetheless buy test traffic to see how well it converts. In Google Adwords, choose "exact match" and point the traffic to the relevant page on your website. Track impressions and conversion rate over the course of at least 200-300 clicks.

Using the data you’ve collected, determine the exact value of each keyword

For example, assume your search ad generated 5,000 impressions in one day, of which 100 visitors have come to your site, and three have converted for a total profit (not revenue!) of $300. In this case, a single visitor for that keyword is worth $3 to your business. Those 5,000 impressions in 24 hours could generate a click-through rate of between 18-36% with a #1 ranking which would mean 900-1800 visits per day, at $3 each, or between 1 and 2 million dollars per year. No wonder businesses love search marketing!

Even the best estimates of value fall flat against the hands-on process of optimizing and calculating ROI. Search engine optimization involves constant testing, experimenting, and improvement. Remember, even though SEO is typically one of the highest return marketing investments, measuring success is still critical to the process.

Understanding the Long Tail of Keyword Demand

Going back to our online shoe store example, it would be great to rank #1 for the keyword "shoes" … or would it?

It's wonderful to deal with keywords that have 5,000 searches a day, or even 500 searches a day, but in reality, these popular search terms actually make up less than 30% of the searches performed on the web. The remaining 70% lie in what's called the "long tail" of search. The long tail contains hundreds of millions of unique searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day, but, when taken together, comprise the majority of the world's search volume.

Another lesson search marketers have learned is that long tail keywords often convert better, because they catch people later in the buying/conversion cycle. A person searching for "shoes" is probably browsing, and not ready to buy. On the other hand, someone searching for "best price on Air Jordan size 12" practically has their wallet out!

Understanding the search demand curve is critical. To the right we've included a sample keyword demand curve, illustrating the small number of queries sending larger amounts of traffic alongside the volume of less-searched terms and phrases that bring the bulk of our search referrals.

"Ignore the long tail at your peril-search marketing and website content strategies must allow for this "impossible to predict" form of visits or risk losing out to a more expository and prolific competitor."
 
Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

Small Business Development Center

Small Business Development Center

The New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Ocean County College is part of a national network of university/college-based centers that provide comprehensive counseling and educational opportunities to small business owners and potential owners. The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) network is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers, the leading provider of small business consulting and management services, is a non-profit, federal-state-educational partnership.

Counseling services are provided at a no cost basis by private consultants, faculty, and SBDC staff.

Educational courses, workshops and conferences are designed to give managers, owners, and potential owners the tools needed to analyze and resolve business problems and to keep informed of educational, financial, research and international trade developments.

The following courses:

Markethive

Steps for Turning Your Invention Ideas Into a Product

 Steps for Turning Your Invention Ideas Into a Product

The light bulb above your head is glowing so bright that it's threatening to blind everyone around you. But what should you do with your great invention ideas? Before you start blabbing about your invention to the wrong person or run to the first company that offers to buy it, you need to do one thing: Protect it.

Whether you want to produce and market your invention yourself or license it to another company, the only way to make money from your invention and to guarantee that no one will steal your idea is to file a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This can be an intimidating process, so we've asked Andy Gibbs, CEO of PatentCafe.com, to break it down for you in five easy steps.

Document It

Simply having an "idea" is worthless–you need to have proof of when you came up with the invention ideas. Write down everything you can think of that relates to your invention, from what it is and how it works to how you'll make and market it. This is the first step to patenting your idea and keeping it from being stolen. You've probably heard about the "poor man's patent"–writing your idea down and mail it to yourself in a sealed envelope so you have dated proof of your invention's conception. This is unreliable and unlikely to hold up in court. Write your idea down in an inventor's journal and have it signed by a witness. This journal will become your bible throughout the patent process. An inventor's journal can by any bound notebook whose pages are numbered consecutively and can't be removed or reinserted. You can find specially designed inventor's journals at bookstores, or you can save money and purchase a generic notebook anywhere they're sold, such as the grocery store, office supply store, stationary store, etc. Just make sure it meets the requirements above.

Research It

You will need to research your idea from a legal and business standpoint. Before you file a patent, you should:

  • Complete an initial patent search. Just because you haven't seen your invention doesn't mean it doesn't already exist. Before you hire a patent attorney or agent, complete a rudimentary search for free to make sure no one else has patented your idea. You should also complete a non-patent "prior art" search. If you find any sort of artwork or design related to your idea, you cannot patent it–regardless of whether a prior patent has been filed.
  • Research your market. Sure, your brother thinks your idea for a new lawn sprinkler is a great idea, but that doesn't mean your neighbor would buy one. More than 95 percent of all patents never make money for the inventor. Before you invest too much time and money into patenting your invention, do some preliminary research of your target market. Is this something people will actually buy? Once you know there's a market, make sure your product can be manufactured and distributed at a low enough cost so that your retail price is reasonable. You can determine these costs by comparing those of similar products currently on the market. This will also help you size up your competition–which you will have, no matter how unique you think your invention is.

 Make a Prototype

A prototype is a model of your invention that puts into practice all of the things you have written in your inventor's journal. This will demonstrate the design of your invention when you present it to potential lenders and licensees. Do not file a patent before you have made a prototype. You will almost always discover a flaw in your original design or think of a new feature you would like to add. If you patent your idea before you work out these kinks, it will be too late to include them in the patent and you will risk losing the patent rights of the new design to someone else.

Here are some general rules of thumb when prototyping your invention:

1. Begin with a drawing. Before you begin the prototyping phase, sketch out all of your ideas into your inventor's journal.

2. Create a concept mockup out of any material that will allow you to create a 3-D model of your design.

3. Once you're satisfied with the mockup, create a full-working model of your idea. There are many books and kits that can help you create prototypes. If your invention is something that will cost a lot of money or is unreasonable to prototype (like an oil refinery process or a new pharmaceutical drug), consider using a computer-animated virtual prototype.

 File a Patent

Now that you have all of the kinks worked out of your design, it's finally time to file a patent. There are two main patents you will have to choose from: a utility patent (for new processes or machines) or a design patent (for manufacturing new, nonobvious ornamental designs). You can write the patent and fill out the application yourself, but do not file it yourself until you have had a skilled patent professional look it over first. If the invention is really valuable, someone will infringe on it. If you do not have a strong patent written by a patent attorney or agent, you will be pulling your hair out later when a competitor finds a loophole that allows them to copy your idea. It's best to get the legal help now to avoid any legal problems in the future.

When searching for a patent attorney or agent, remember one thing: If you see them advertised on TV, run away! Once you are far, far away, follow these steps to choosing the best patent professional:

1. Do your homework. Have your inventor's journal, prototype, and notes with you. This will save them time, and your money. This will also help persuade them to work with you.

2. Make sure they are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

3. Ask them what their technical background is. If your invention is electronic, find a patent professional who is also an electrical engineer.

4. Discuss fees. Keep your focus on smaller patent firms. They are less expensive and will work more closely with you. Agree to the estimated total cost before hiring your patent professional.

 Market Your Invention

Now it's time to figure out how you're going to bring your product to market. Create a business plan: How will you get money? Where will you manufacture the product? How will you sell it? Now is a good time to decide if you will manufacture and sell the product yourself, or license it for sale through another company. When you license your product you will probably only receive two percent to five percent in royalty fees. This often scares away investors who feel they deserve more. But consider the upside: You will not have the financial burden associated with maintaining a business. This could end up making you more money in the long run.

Following these five steps will ensure an easy road to patenting your invention. Just remember that an easy road doesn't necessarily mean a short one. From the time you conceive your idea to the time you see your product on the shelf is a very long process. Most inventions take years to come to fruition. Have patience and follow due diligence in your steps to patenting your invention and your years of hard work will finally pay off.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

How to Make ‘Boring’ Industries Exciting Online

How to Make 'Boring' Industries Exciting Online

Are you in a boring industry? Doesn't matter. Generating awareness online can work for any industry.
 

Are you in a “boring” industry? Finance or real estate, perhaps? Legal services or manufacturing? Sure, you may find your profession interesting, but you sigh at the futility of engaging with your audience online. “They just won’t care,” you say with resigned certainty. Stop the negative talk. Generating awareness online can work for any industry. You just have to find a way to make your industry exciting.

So I want you to change the way you frame the situation. If you’re in a “boring” industry, then see that for the opportunity it really is. Your competitors haven’t found an effective way to engage with their audience online. What an incredible opportunity for you to find a strategy that works.

By getting digital attention for your business, you’ll be cashing in on a huge competitive advantage. While everyone else is stuck in the “boring” mindset, you’ll be making yourself a valuable part of the online conversation and growing your business in the process. Here are several strategies from companies who have turned their industries from sleepy to sexy through innovative digital initiatives.

Create and share great video content.

Will It Blend?

Blenders may not be the most exciting kitchen appliance, but chances are you’ve seen those "Will It Blend?" videos. In a brilliant viral marketing campaign that dates back to 2006, Blendtec’s founder Tom Dickson showed off the power of his blenders by blending all sorts of things in a series of short video infomercials. Ever seen the one of him blending Bic lighters? Oh Man, is that satisfying.

By blending everything from golf balls and credit cards to cell phones and camcorders, Dickson capitalizes on our childlike curiosity to see household items get completely destroyed. And he gets to prove the power of his blenders in the process.

In a stroke of genius, Dickson turned an everyday kitchen gadget into a compelling conversation starter online. Those videos get hundreds of thousands — even millions — of views each. The iPad blending video from 2010 already has 18 million views and counting! That’s a lot of people to care about a kitchen gadget. And the kicker? The "Will It Blend?" series boosted sales by a factor of five between 2006 and 2007.

Take advantage of social media.

Is there anything more boring than taxes? Probably not, and yet, H&R Block has somehow managed to amass nearly 500,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter combined. Who are these people? Don’t they have anything better to do with their time than follow a tax service provider on social media?

The answer is twofold. First, H&R Block is active online and uses social media in all the right ways. They give quick tips for taxpayers, provide in-depth knowledge for professionals and piggyback off current events to give their fun, unique take on the news.

Second, their followers are their community. They’re accountants, people who care about taxes, finance gurus and everyday Joe Schmoes who have questions about their taxes. And H&R Block clearly cares about that community. They regularly respond to comments on their Facebook page and encourage people to Tweet out for help on their taxes.

Engage your customers via email.

People care about food. A lot. But food delivery is a bit of a snoozefest.

Nevertheless, Seamless has done an amazing job of making food delivery fun with their email marketing campaigns. I’ve experienced those emails firsthand, and it doesn’t feel like the spammy garbage I receive from other companies. It’s a bit of a game, actually. Sometimes I get a 10, 15 or 20 percent off my next order for being a loyal customer. Other times, I get an email where they piggyback off a holiday like National Donut Day to offer a special deal on donut deliveries.

Or, it might just be a fun PR partnership like when they partnered with Bon Appetit to rank the top 10 delivery restaurants in the country. Another time, they partnered with HBO to offer viewers a free month and pair food in your area with HBO favorites.

My favorite email of all time came with this headline: "Get 10 percent OFF for picking the winning Best Picture NOM-inee!" Now if that doesn’t get you ready for food delivery during the Academy Awards, I don’t know what will.

Launch online contests and giveaways.

London Drugs Giveaway

Nothing screams excitement like multi-chain pharmacies.

London Drugs is a Canadian retail chain with a focus on pharmaceuticals. They’reactive active on social media and actively manage seven blogs, but their real distinguishing factor is their focus on prizes, contests, and giveaways. Contests and sweepstakes are great because they generate buzz around your brand, reach your target market, and help you generate email leads from interested customers. Win-win-win and all for a smaller price than you’d pay for traditional advertising.

London Drugs runs a number of targeted sweepstakes on its social channels, which has helped transform Facebook into their #1 source of website referral traffic. (They’ve grown their Facebook following to over 120,000 people strong.) Entrants to these contests simply submit their email for a chance to win a gift card or something related to the London Drugs brand. They actually launched a giveaway recently where you can enter for a chance to win a first aid/emergency kit. Don’t mind if I do…

Humor, humor, humor.

Poo Pourri

 

Poo-Pourri is the “before-you-go” toilet spray that made its mark on consumers thanks to its “Girls Don’t Poop” campaign back in 2013. In that video, you can watch the red-headed Bethany Woodruff talk confidently about “tenacious skid marks” and “dropping a motherload” — shameless toilet humor from a woman that makes the product incredibly accessible.

Poo Pourri’s toilet humor campaign seems obvious after the fact, but have you ever seen Febreze or any other air freshener market themselves in that way before Poo-Pourri came along?

Yes, this company takes advantage of great video content. And yes, they’re using social media. But really, they’re just being lighthearted and funny about their product. By not taking themselves too seriously, Poo-Pourri was able to tap into a market of customers who otherwise might not use a toilet spray at all. Sometimes humor can go a long way.

Educate your audience.

Ask a Mortician

 

There is a mortician in Los Angeles that hosts an “Ask a Mortician” video series on Youtube. People leave comments on her videos asking questions about burials and death and she posts new videos answering those questions. (I highly recommend the Corpse Poo episode — Poo-Pourri anyone?)

The videos are a bit more polished today, but if you go back to her original ones in 2011 and 2012, you’ll see that the quality leaves much to be desired. And those early videos are the ones that sparked her fame online. So don’t be discouraged by your lack of pro video skills.

The mortician,  Caitlin Doughty, has done a terrific job answering her audience’s questions and growing over 80,000 subscribers on Youtube in the process. Some of her most popular videos have earned hundreds of thousands of views.

Doesn’t this example prove any industry can make an impact online? Sure, funeral directing may not be the most stereotypically boring profession around, but it sure isn’t one you’d typically expect to engage in content marketing initiatives online.

Pharmaceutical, tax and manufacturing companies — even morticians — are finding effective ways to get attention for their brands online. Still, think your industry is too boring for the digital world? If they can do it, you can too.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

The Growing of Popularity and Links

The Growing of Popularity and Links

For search engines that crawl the vast metropolis of the web, links are the streets between pages. Using sophisticated link analysis, the engines can discover how pages are related to each other and in what ways.

 

Since the late 1990s, search engines have treated links as votes for popularity and importance in the ongoing democratic opinion poll of the web. The engines themselves have refined the use of link data to a fine art, and use complex algorithms to perform nuanced evaluations of sites and pages based on this information.

Links aren't everything in SEO, but search professionals attribute a large portion of the engines' algorithms to link-related factors. Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity websites and pages based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while spammy sites receive very few links from trusted sources. Authority models, like those postulated in the Hilltop Algorithm, suggest that links are a very good way of identifying expert documents on a given subject.

Link Signals

Used by search engines

How do search engines assign a value to links? To answer this, we need to explore the individual elements of a link and look at how the search engines assess these elements. We don't fully understand the proprietary metrics that search engines use, but through analysis of patent applications, years of experience, and hands-on testing, we can draw some intelligent assumptions that hold up in the real world. Below is a list of notable factors worthy of consideration. These signals and more are considered by professional SEOs when measuring link value and a site's link profile. You may also enjoy some further on the Moz Blog reading about search engine valuation of links.

Global Popularity

The more popular and important a site is, the more links from that site matter. A site like Wikipedia has thousands of diverse sites linking to it, which means it's probably a popular and important site. To earn trust and authority with the engines, you'll need the help of other link partners. The more popular, the better.

Local/Topic-Specific Popularity

The concept of "local" popularity, first pioneered by the Teoma search engine, suggests that links from sites within a topic-specific community matter more than links from general or off-topic sites. For example, if your website sells dog houses, a link from the Society of Dog Breeders matters much more than one from a site about roller skating.

Anchor Text

One of the strongest signals the engines use in rankings is anchor text. If dozens of links point to a page with the right keywords, that page has a very good probability of ranking well for the targeted phrase in that anchor text. You can see examples of this in action with searches where many results rank solely due to the anchor text of inbound links.

TrustRank

It's no surprise that the Internet contains massive amounts of spam. Some estimate as much as 60% of the web's pages are spam. In order to weed out this irrelevant content, search engines use systems for measuring trust, many of which are based on the link graph. Earning links from highly trusted domains can result in a significant boost to this scoring metric. Universities, government websites, and non-profit organizations represent examples of high-trust domains.

Link Neighborhood

Spam links often go both ways. A website that links to spam is likely spam itself, and in turn often has many spam sites linking back to it. By looking at these links in the aggregate, search engines can understand the "link neighborhood" in which your website exists. Thus, it's wise to choose those sites you link to carefully and be equally selective with the sites you attempt to earn links from.

Freshness

Link signals tend to decay over time. Sites that were once popular often go stale, and eventually fail to earn new links. Thus, it's important to continue earning additional links over time. Commonly referred to as "FreshRank," search engines use the freshness signals of links to judge current popularity and relevance.

Social Sharing

The last few years have seen an explosion in the amount of content shared through social services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Although search engines treat socially shared links differently than other types of links, they notice them nonetheless. There is much debate among search professionals as to how exactly search engines factor social link signals into their algorithms, but there is no denying the rising importance of social channels.

 

The Power of Social Sharing

How Google+, Twitter, and Facebook Change the Game

The years 2011-2012 saw a huge rise in social sharing and its effects on search. Google, in particular, began to incorporate a huge number of social signals into its search results. This involves serving personalized results to logged-in users that include content shared by the searcher's social circle (Facebook, Twitter and others). These results might not always appear in the top ten, but are undoubtedly promoted due to this social influence.

The potential power of this shift towards social for search marketers is huge. Someone with a large social circle, who shares a lot of material, is more likely to see that material (and her face) promoted in search results. For publishers, it's beneficial to have your content shared by these highly influential folks with large social followings. For Google searches, this is especially true of content shared on Google+.

Are Social Shares the Same as Links?

In a word: no. Although there is evidence that social shares such as Tweets, Likes, and Plusses affect rankings, at this time links are considered a far superior and more lasting way to promote the popularity of your content than any other method.

Link Building Basics

Link building is an art. It's almost always the most challenging part of an SEO's job, but also the one most critical to success. Link building requires creativity, hustle, and often, a budget. No two link building campaigns are the same, and the way you choose to build links depends as much upon your website as it does your personality. Below are three basic types of link acquisition.

  1.  "Natural" Editorial LinksLinks that are given naturally by sites and pages that want to link to your content or company. These links require no specific action from the SEO, other than the creation of worthy material (great content) and the ability to create awareness about it.
  2.  Manual "Outreach" Link BuildingThe SEO creates these links by emailing bloggers for links, submitting sites to directories, or paying for listings of any kind. The SEO often creates a value proposition by explaining to the link target why creating the link is in their best interest. Examples include filling out forms for submissions to a website award program or convincing a professor that your resource is worthy of inclusion on the public syllabus.
  3.  Self-Created, Non-EditorialHundreds of thousands of websites offer any visitor the opportunity to create links through guest book signings, forum signatures, blog comments, or user profiles. These links offer the lowest value, but can, in the aggregate, still have an impact for some sites. In general, search engines continue to devalue most of these types of links and have been known to penalize sites that pursue these links aggressively. Today, these types of links are often considered spammy and should be pursued with caution.

It's up to you, as an SEO, to select which of these will have the highest return on the effort invested. As a general rule, it's wise to build as vast and varied a link profile as possible, as this brings the best search engine results. Any link building pattern that appears non-standard, unnatural, or manipulative will eventually become a target for advancing search algorithms to discount.

As with any marketing activity, the first step in any link building campaign is the creation of goals and strategies. Unfortunately, link building is one of the most difficult activities to measure. Although the engines internally weigh each link with precise, mathematical metrics, it's impossible for those on the outside to access this information.

SEOs rely on a number of signals to help build a rating scale of link value. Along with the data from the link signals mentioned above, these metrics include the following:

Ranking for Relevant Search Terms

One of the best ways to determine how highly a search engine values a given page is to search for some of the keywords and phrases that page targets (particularly those in the title tag and headline). For example, if you are trying to rank for the phrase "dog kennel," earning links from pages that already rank for this phrase would help significantly.

MozRank

MozRank (mR) shows how popular a given web page is on the web. Pages with high MozRank scores tend to rank better. The more links to a given page, the more popular it becomes. Links from important pages (like www.cnn.com or www.irs.gov) increase a page's popularity, and subsequently its MozRank, more than unpopular websites. A page's MozRank can be improved by getting lots of links from semi-popular pages, or a few links from very popular pages.

Domain Authority

Moz Domain Authority (or DA) is a query-independent measure of how likely a domain is to rank for any given query. DA is calculated by analyzing the Internet's domain graph and comparing a given domain to tens of thousands of queries in Google.

Competitor's Backlinks

By examining the backlinks (inbound links) of a website that already ranks well for your targeted keyword phrase, you gain valuable intelligence about the links that help them achieve this ranking. Using tools like Open Site Explorer, SEOs can discover these links and target these domains in their own link building campaigns.

Number of Links on a Page

According to the original PageRank formula, the value that a link passes is diluted by the presence of other links on a page. Thus, all other things being equal, being linked to by a page with few links is better than being linked to by a page with many links. The degree to which this is relevant is unknowable (in our testing, it appears to be important, but not overwhelmingly so), but it's certainly something to be aware of as you conduct your link acquisition campaign.

Potential Referral Traffic

Link building should never be solely about search engines. Links that send high amounts of direct click-through traffic not only tend to provide better search engine value for rankings, but also send targeted, valuable visitors to your site (the basic goal of all Internet marketing). This is something you can estimate based on the numbers of visits or page views according to site analytics. If you can't get access to these, services like Google Trends can give you a rough idea of at least domain-wide traffic, although these estimates are known to be wildly inaccurate at times.

It takes time, practice, and experience to build comfort with these variables as they relate to search engine traffic. However, using your websites analytics, you should be able to determine whether your campaign is successful.

Success comes when you see increases in search traffic, higher rankings, more frequent search engine crawling and increases in referring link traffic. If these metrics do not rise after a successful link building campaign, it's possible you either need to seek better quality link targets or improve your on-page optimization.

Five Samples of Link Building Strategies

Get your customers to link to you

Build a company blog; make it a valuable, informative, and entertaining resource

  • If you have partners you work with regularly or loyal customers that love your brand, you can capitalize on this by sending out partnership badges—graphic icons that link back to your site (like Google often does with their AdWords certification program). Just as you'd get customers wearing your t-shirts or sporting your bumper stickers, links are the best way to accomplish the same feat on the web.
  •  
  • This content and link building strategy is so popular and valuable that it's one of the few recommended personally by the engineers at Google. Blogs have the unique ability to contribute fresh material on a consistent basis, participate in conversations across the web, and earn listings and links from other blogs, including blogrolls and blog directories.

Create content that inspires viral sharing and natural linking

  • In the SEO world, we often call this "linkbait." Good examples might include David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors, Compare the Meerkat, or the funny How Not To Clean a Window. Each leverages aspects of usefulness, information dissemination, or humor to create a viral effect. Users who see it once want to share it with friends, and bloggers/tech-savvy webmasters who see it will often do so through links. Such high quality, editorially earned votes are invaluable to building trust, authority, and rankings potential.

Be newsworthy

  • Earning the attention of the press, bloggers and news media is an effective, time-honored way to earn links. Sometimes this is as simple as giving away something for free, releasing a great new product, or stating something controversial. The link building activities you engage in depend largely on the type of site you're working with.

For smaller sites, manual link building, including directories, link requests, and link exchanges may be a part of the equation. With larger sites, these tactics tend to fall flat and more scalable solutions are required. Sample strategies are listed here, though this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Search for sites like yours by using keywords and phrases directly relevant to your business. When you locate sites that aren't directly competitive, email them, use their online forms, call them on the phone, or even send them a letter by mail to start a conversation about getting a link. Check out this blog post on link requests for more detail.

Show Me the Money

An aside on buying links

Google and Bing seek to discount the influence of paid links in their organic search results. While it is impossible for them to detect and discredit all paid links, the search engines put a lot of time and resources into finding ways to detect these. Websites caught buying links or participating in link schemes risk severe penalties that will drop their rankings into oblivion. Notwithstanding these efforts, link buying sometimes works; many search professionals wish the search engines would do even more to discourage it.

We spending your time on long-term link building strategies that focus on building links naturally.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

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Ecosystem for all Entrepreneurs