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Post image for 5 Ways to Get More Customer Referrals

Every business will probably agree that customer referrals are awesome!  Not only do they have a much lower acquisition cost than customers obtained from traditional marketing efforts, but conversion rates are usually much higher as well.   The amount of referral business you have is a good measure of success of your marketing efforts.  There are numerous ways to get referrals from your customer base and the sections below will outline a few of them.

Satisfy Your Customers

It may be a simple idea, but providing a great product or service your customers love will naturally get you referrals.  The idea is to have something your customers truly love.  For some industries it can also be what your company stands for, such as environmentalist.  If you are lucky to have a very unique product or service, you may also be able to get many of them to talk about it on social media sites.  The more a customer loves your product, the more likely they will want to tell or brag to their friends about it.

After they Order or Sign Up

For many businesses, a great time to ask your customers for a referral is after they placed their order or signed up for your services.  For example, our company mails out hand written thank you cards to every customer that signs up for our merchant account service.  We also include a flier in the card asking for customer referrals as well.  If you sell a product, you could have the person that packages it write a very short message on the packing slip asking for a referral.  Not only will it show that someone took the time to handle their package with care, but also a few seconds to write a personal message.

Customer Service Issues

Let’s say you have a customer call in with a complaint or customer service issue.  How can you turn this into a positive thing?  If you take care of their issue and make them a satisfied customer once again, that would be a great time to ask for a referral.  People can feel obligated to return the favor when you help them out with their issue, even if it is your fault.  This can be done after the issue is resolved while you still have them on the phone or even with a follow up email.

Product Reviews

Any business that sells a product online should have the ability for customers to post product reviews.  A product review in essence  is someone speaking out that they vouch for the product.  According to some online research, over 70% of online shoppers read product reviews before buying.  When was the last time you purchased something online?  Did you look at the reviews to see what others were saying?

Offer Incentives

When you ask for referrals, it can be a great idea to offer some type of incentive when it is appropriate.  If you offer a fairly profitable product or service, you may want to offer cash as an incentive.  For example, we offer our merchants a referral fee for every customer they refer to us.  Another idea would be to offer them a discount off of their next purchase.

Curtis with Gotmerchant.com has been helping small businesses accept credit cards for the past 8 years.  They offer an award winning merchant account service with a level of personal service unmatched by most of their competitors.

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This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

5 Ways to Get More Customer Referrals


Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Posted by JoannaLord

I’ve been traveling for the past few weeks and talking to dozens of SEO consultants, and you know what they are all saying? They are at their max for clients. Yup, that’s right…they can’t take on new clients. They have TOO much work! This is good for all sorts of reasons. One, it shows we are in a good place during an economically difficult time, and two, there are people out there desperately seeking out your services, with nowhere to turn.

So how do you find these clients begging to pay you money? Here are ten ways to build your client base, and ultimately make sure the clients keep-a-coming…

10. Refer a client/affiliate programRefer customers
Setting up a referral or affiliate program can be something as simple as offering discounts on your prices to clients that refer new clients, or something as complicated as full blown affiliate programs with ongoing commissions for successful client signups.  I find too many consultants think of this as bothering a past client, but if you offer them a kickback for mentioning your good services to their friends that need them…it seems like such an obvious double win to me. So what are you doing to leverage your current client list for a bigger, better looking one?

9. Optimize your site/resume
This is one of those "oh snap" moments.  It’s such a simple idea, but few of us are doing it. As SEOs we spend our days helping people rank their sites higher, and optimize for more conversions. Well uhmmm, what about your site? I know you are doing all the right stuff to make sure you rank #1 for "best SEO consultant in the universe" but what about when they actually land on your site? Is it easy for them to request more info? How about trust signals, testimonials, and other valuable information…is it doing it’s job? Potential clients will naturally spy on you check out your website and resume. Do you know what they are going to find? Is it enough?

8.  Speak at events/hold site clinics
As we all know this industry operates, for the most part, virtually. However, when it comes to signing clients nothing can replace a potential client seeing you in person. Speaking at conferences can be a great way to reach a relevant audience and pitch yourself before having to pitch your services. You get to network, and possibly get links to help build your brand.  In addition to speaking, if you can finagle it, hold site clinics at conferences. The whole room gets to see you action, and your future clients get to see exactly how you will help them…once they sign with you. Can you say cha-ching?

Martin MacDonald Speaking at SEO PRO Training London 2010
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Martin MacDonald’s excellent presentation at the London Pro Training likely earned him some new clients
_

7. Guest blogging
As SEO’s we know the value of guest blogging. Words like "visibility," "links," and "personal branding" come to mind. All of these make guest blogging the perfect way to funnel potential clients to your site and your services. Take this idea and think outside of the box. If you focus on SEO for your local area, where are local businesses reading information online? Get in there. If you do SEO for enterprise sites, where are those CMO’s getting their information? Make sure your byline is landing in front of their SEO-deprived eyes.

6. Sponsor events/mixers
Instead of traveling by plane to go talk SEO, why not host a local meet-up for businesses to hear about how SEO can help them succeed. You can either go formal and have a panel talking local SEO, or you could have material they can take with them. These local mixers can help attract qualified leads and build your reputation as a local SEO expert. How do you get people to come? Give away free consultations, or pick up the bar tab for an hour. Never underestimate the power of an open bar.

SEOmoz's Meetup in Sofia, Bulgaria
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The SEOmoz meetup in Sofia, where we made tons of great new friends
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5. Create free tools
I can’t take the credit for this idea, but I had to get it up on the list. Lots of great consultants and agencies have been doing this for years.  If you have free tools that people will love, offer them up as a way to drive traffic to your site. By offering SEO-related tools, you attract a relevant audience, collect information you can use to follow-up with, and leave people with a positive sentiment. People love free stuff! It’s a great way to get people both comfortable, and acquainted with your personal brand.

 Virante's Free SEO Tools
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Virante’s collection of free SEO tools brings them highly relevant traffic and industry credibility
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4. Email blast
Much like #9 you would think this approach would be obvious, but oftentimes us SEOs forget about some marketing basics. When you are looking to add to your client base why not email friends, family, past colleagues, etc. and let them know you are taking on new clients. Make sure you list out what you specialize in so they can easily pass the email onto people that might be interested. If you are really looking to get leads, add in a free consult or audit, and make the deal impossible to ignore. Personal referrals are incredibly powerful.

Email Blast
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Take note of that email address – it’s a handy one to have :-)
_

3. Publish case studies
I know you all just collectively rolled your eyes when you read this one, because you are right, case studies involve a lot of work. You have to nail down a thesis, put together a test, collect data, and then report the results in a digestible manner. Yuck. But you know what? Case studies are compelling for just that reason. They are a thorough example of just how effective your services can be for the person reading the case study. Potential clients want to read about a similar company and the success SEO brought them. If you couple that case study with a contact form they can fill out for more information, you are sitting pretty. Trust me.

Location 3 Media Local SEO PDF
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Location 3 Media’s excellent Local SEO Guide is a great example
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2. Learn a niche
This may seem counterintuitive, because how can you open up the flood gates for more clients if you limit yourself to one niche, but people considering SEO want to see a consultant with relevant experience. Remember, SEO is still a bit confusing to most companies. They don’t understand best practices, they still believe that this SEO-stuff is a bit magical. If you have a few past clients in one industry, why not build out that portfolio and market yourself as such. What is your niche? Sometimes by taking on any client, you actually cannibalize your chances of owning a type of client.

1. Get active in new forums
Did I just use the word "forum?" Yeah I did. I don’t necessarily mean the forums of yesteryear (although a lot of those are still great places to network) instead I mean the new age forums. There are so many sites out there to help you establish yourself as an expert in a certain field. I mean sites like Quora, LinkedIn Answers, FormSpring and Facebook Questions.There are dozens of niche Q&A sites popping up. Don’t underestimate the power of marketing yourself an SEO authority to these growing audiences.

Formspring.me
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Sharing your knowledge across the web can result in positive client karma
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So there you have it. Hopefully I’ve given you some great ideas to get started with. The key with all of this is to remember that you need to be marketing your services not just to people that get SEO, but go beyond that circle. Wander into the less Internet-savvy group, and help them understand the value of SEO. In doing so, you will help them see the value in you, and more importantly, in hiring you.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for things I may have forgotten. How have you all grown your client base?
 

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Ben Edelman did it again :)

This time he highlighted how Google hard codes their search results:

[When] we roll[ed] out Google Finance, we did put the Google link first. It seems only fair right, we do all the work for the search page and all these other things, so we do put it first… That has actually been our policy, since then, because of Finance. So for Google Maps again, it’s the first link. – Marissa Mayer

If they gain certain privileges in the marketplace by claiming to not abuse their power and that their algorithmic results are neutral, but those algorithmic results may be pushed below the fold, then is it “only fair” for them to put themselves in a default market leading position in any category they feel they can make money from by selling ads in? Or is that an abuse of power?

As Google adds features, collects more data, puts ads everywhere, and pushes into being a publisher on more fronts, at some point there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back. Big money is paying attention and the list of “evidence” grows weekly. Sometimes they still think like a start up. And that will lead to their demise.

It might not be anytime soon, but eventually they will hit a whammy.

SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Posted by fabioricotta

Hi SEOmoz folks,

Some weeks ago my coworker Leandro Riolino published in our blog an experiment he was working with. The idea of the experiment was to try link to a page A from a page B with 3 different anchor texts providing value of all those anchor texts.

The idea is simple:  we chose 3 random keywords, created an internal page, created 3 links to different URLs that have a canonical tag to the main page. You can see this idea illustrated bellow:

Canonical Tag Experiment

So, after choosing the 3 keywords we submitted each one to check if Google has any occurrences of them:

Keyword 1

Keyword 2

Keyword 3

Then we bought a new domain, that has no backlinks and as you can see bellow, Google shows us that this website isn’t in the index:

New Website

Creating the Index Page

To start the experiment my coworker downloaded a random template from the Internet with some random content inside, changing only the page title, meta description and H1 tag focusing all them into the main website keyword “jogos online de corrida” (online race games in English). The major change he made into the template was to add a conditional check with PHP to insert the canonical tag if the URL requested had any parameter:

<? if (isset($_GET[keyword]))

{ ?>

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.jogosonlinedecorrida.com.br" />

<? } ?>

For those who know something about PHP language, this code checks if the variable $_GET exists. If this check returns true the code insert the canonical tag line into the HTML.

It’s important to say that we do not mention any of those 3 keywords in the Index Page. So, this page can’t rank for having a keyword mention… instead Google needs to check it’s backlinks.

Internal Page

The next step was to create the internal page. We created it with 3 links in 3 different page positions: one in the header, another one in the content area and the last one in the footer area with the following anchor text: “nanuoretfcvds ksabara1″, “esjstisfdfkf aasjdkwer” e “gisrterssia fdswreasfs”. Each link had different targets:

  • http://www.jogosonlinedecorrida.com.br/?keyword=key1
  • http://www.jogosonlinedecorrida.com.br/?keyword=key2
  • http://www.jogosonlinedecorrida.com.br/?keyword=key3

It’s important to say that we used the meta tag <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow” /> into this internal page, so this page would not rank for those 3 keywords.

Indexing the Content

In order to have the pages indexed by Google my coworker created a Sitemap.XML with the 2 pages (home and internal) and submitted it to Google Webmaster Tools. It is important to say that we did not share this page in any webpage and did not submit in any bookmarking service.

After 2 weeks, our website was showing the 2 pages when we used the operator “site:”. After one more week Google was showing the 2 pages and the link to their cache.

After this “waiting time” we searched in Google on the 3 keywords that we created and noticed that the main page was appearing for ALL of them as you can see bellow:

Keyword 1 - Home

Keyword 2 - Home

Keyword 3 - Home

So, with this small experiment we noticed that Google was giving to a page 3 anchor text values if we use the canonical tag as a funnel.

Conclusions and Applications

With this small experiment we have a hint on how Google treats the anchor text of a page that uses the rel=canonical tag and now we can try to create some new experiments (eg.: use a parameter in the logo link to your main page, and then receive the anchor text of the second link – because we know that only the first anchor text counts).

We know that this is a single experiment and we need to see if this works in a real website, because we know that Google understands the page segments and this maybe does not work as we presented in this article. We still need to try and check this.

I can’t end this article until saying congratulations to my coworker Leandro that provided me a huge amount of knowledge with this experiment – thank you.

Hope you liked this article!

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by JoannaLord

Alright fellow data crunchers, you ready for the final post in our three-post series, "So You Call Yourself an Analyst?" I was really hoping to get this post up last week but instead I was putting the final touches on our new affiliate program (more on that very soon)! For those of you that missed Part 1 or Part 2 of this series, I suggest checking those out before reading this one.

In Part 2, we outlined ways to analyze the data for valuable insights. We walked through GA features, as well as strategies to help you prioritize your analysis efforts. We should all be sitting here with tons of great data just waiting to be used.

Assigning Value to the Data

So what do we do now? Buy ourselves a pumpkin spice latte, and call it a day? No, no, no.  It’s our job to take all of this data and figure out how much we are making (or not making) from our efforts. We can begin to create options based on data to help steer our companies down a more profitable path. By assigning value to the data you are now speaking a language everyone understands–money.

You need to explain the current situation in dollars. Too often analysts show up to meetings with great data but they explain it in weekly increases or decreases. This can be hard for people to conceptualize. Instead translate the data into actual dollars. I find the value per visit (VPV) metric to be one of the most overlooked calculations an analyst can use. Let’s roll through an example;

Let’s say we wanted to know if we should allocate more resources to the Learn SEO section. We would want to know how much each visit, on average, makes us. How do we calculate the value per visit? We pull how many people visited the section last month, and see how many conversions took place. We then multiply the # of conversions by (you can also use your lifetime value if you want) and we get a monetary value the section brough in last month. We take that value and divide by number of visits to the Learn SEO section, and we have a practical data point to report. Looks like this;

Value per visit calculation

Reporting good data with an attached value to your boss or client is only half the battle. The other part is making those numbers compelling. For example, let’s say your marketing team needs to know what section of the site they should focus CRO efforts on. You may be inclined to throw that data in excel, but why not throw it in a pie chart? The data really pops, right?

 

When reporting the value of data you should lean on things like bar graphs, pie charts, and ranges of success. Go dramatic folks! You just spent days throwing back caffeinated drinks so you could find data they want to see. Help them see it better.

Last but not least…Take Action!

Now that we have the value nailed down, we can move onto my favorite part–taking action.  Yup you read that right…it is your responsibility to hand the rest of the company with suggested "next steps" {mind explodes!}

Now I want you guys to be honest, how many of you have said something like this,  "If we can increase traffic to this page by 10% we will increase signups by 2% and add X number of dollars to the bottomline?" Ugh, come on people! You have the data. You know how the traffic is getting to that page right now. You know what referrals are increasing, and which are dropping. You know what sections of the site are funneling to that page and which have no way for a visitor to access that page. Make actual suggestions when presenting the data!

You should be saying, "Here are my suggestions for increasing traffic to this page…" and list a number of referring sources for PR to work on, or give a handful of keywords for your SEO to target, etc. These are things you can suggest based on the numbers. You can have confidence that you are suggesting smart moves for your company.

That is what this was all for friends. As analysts we aren’t just tasked with making sure everything looks okay, we are also expected to find ways to improve. If you aren’t walking away from the data with action items you can get started on, you shouldn’t be walking away from the data.

Well that about wraps it up for this series folks. I hope I have helped some of you reevaluate your current analytical process. I know it all seems like quite a bit of work, but trust me when I say time invested in analytics is well spent. Hopefully this series has given you a roadmap to follow, and at the very least motivated you to log in, check it all out, and start analyzing.

Want to start from the beginning and check out Parts 1 & 2? Here they are:

Part 1: Asking the Right Questions
Part 2: Analysis Redefined

 

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by randfish

You’ve probably already noticed that here at SEOmoz, we tend to travel quite a bit. Often times we’re speaking at a conference or covering it on the blog, but sometimes we find ourselves wishing we had more time to hang out with the community. We needed to come up with a way to spend some quality time with you. So, we’re sending mozzers out to cities all over the world to have Meetups and give us a chance to get to know you in a more intimate setting.

We’re interested in learning first-hand what we can we do to make our software work harder for you, if you’d like to learn about a specific subject on the blog and in general, anything you’d like to tell us! Of course, we’ll provide the beer, probably some food and at the very least some interesting conversation.

Upcoming Meetups

New York City – Oct. 19, 6-9pm Eastern
637 W. 27th Street – 8th Floor
New York, NY 10001

New York City is probably the best place we could think of to have our first SEOmoz meetup. Promediacorp has been gracious enough to let us use their amazing office to host the event. This should be a really great event as we’ll have a few speakers in addition to food and drink. We are limiting the event to 50 people, so if you can definitely join us, please be sure to RSVP!

Register for SEOmoz NY Meetup 2010 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

NYC Speakers:

Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz
Topic: Shhhh…. A sneak peek at new research from SEOmoz

Chris Winfield, CMO & Managing Partner, BlueGlass
Topic: Major Trends in SEO as seen from the team at BlueGlass

Greg Gortz, VP Sales, Zemanta
Topic: Link Building Best Practices for 2010 and beyond


Sofia Bulgaria
Stock Photo by Nickolay Stanev

Sofia, Bulgaria – Oct. 29, 7-9pm
We’re still waiting to finish the final touches on this event. Be sure to follow us on Twitter  or keep an eye on our events page and we’ll announce changes as they come up.


Las Vegas – Nov. 10, 5:30-7:30pm Pacific

PubConFor the past few years we’ve held our annual Search Spam Party. This year at PubCon we’ll be hosting a happy hour with free drinks and light appetizers for all PubCon attendees. We’re still looking to finalize the exact location but we’re planning on having it at or near the Wynn. So after the last session of the day head on over for a fun, relaxing happy hour with all your favorite peeps. Don’t miss it!

As PubCon gets closer we’ll have more information about the location and a place to sign up.


San Diego – December

We’ll have more information about this one soon. The event should take place around December 20th.

But what about my city?

Don’t worry! We are planning more SEOmoz events. You can stay up-to-date on the location of the moz team on this new fancy looking page linked to below. This calendar not only shows our meetups but also shows what conferences we’ll be speaking at and who’s speaking and/or attending. It will be updated often, so if you’re ever curious where we are and what we’re up to, you can find out here:

SEOmoz Events

By the way, I’ll actually be at all of the events we have listed above. I look forward to seeing you there!

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog
Post image for How To Make Your Homepage More Dynamic

One of the problems I encounter on large client websites–or with clients who constantly add or update existing content–is getting this content into the index as quickly as possible. One of the tactics I recommend is using the homepage.

When I talk about adding dynamic content I mean in the main content section …

I can think of only three or four websites I have ever worked on where the homepage wasn’t the most frequently crawled page on the entire website (the outlier cases were viral microsites, in case you were wondering). So your best strategy is to use this frequent crawling to spoon feed links to the new or updated content to the search engines.

But how do you put this into practice? Here are some examples:

  • Place links to your 10 most important products right on the homepage
  • Run a seasonal website, changing the links on your homepage every month
  • Publish new articles, putting the links on the homepage
  • Update content or living URLs and put the links on the homepage
  • Have a blog, making sure the links are here to your latest posts

At a time when Google places value on page speed, having excessive calls to the database on your most visited page doesn’t make a lot of sense. What I recommend is building static include files once a day, every few days, or once a week. This gives you the flexibility you need without the unnecessary overhead.

If you are looking for a way to include info from an rss feed (like a blog), here’s a nice and simple script you can use called rss lib. If you use it, be a nice guy and make a donation. Open source gpl stuff helps everyone.

Lastly, when I talk about adding dynamic content I mean in the main content section not the footer. Putting dynamic content in the footer has a purpose, but it is much more effective when it’s in the main body area.
Creative Commons License photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

How To Make Your Homepage More Dynamic

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Posted by randfish

Today I’m happy to announce that we’ve just updated Linkscape’s web index (which also powers Open Site Explorer and the metrics via the mozBar) with fresh link data. You should see some bright shiny links we’ve found from late July to early August in this index (e.g. our own Beginner’s Guide now has lots of interesting link information). We also have some cool updates to the API, new partnerships and more, all covered below.

50% Improvement to Domain Authority

You may recall when we produced our correlation research this Spring, we showed that while Page Authority was substantively better than any other metric for an individual page’s importance, Domain Authority was much rougher (and only slightly better than homepage toolbar PageRank, i.e. pretty bad). We’ve been hard at work improving our models, adding data sources and writing code to help and this index is our first to feature an improved Domain Authority.

Thus, you’ll generally find that sites that perform better in Google’s rankings will have higher DA, while those that don’t do tremendously well are much lower. We also noted that a lot of the "bunching" of DA scores in the 60-65 range is now considerably better, with a lot more even distribution for "mid-performing" domains between 35-55.

Domain Authority Correlation
This chart from April, if re-done today, should show ~50% better correlation for Domain Authority to Google rankings (sorry I didn’t have time to make an updated chart)
_

We plan to keep improving and hope to have even better numbers and overall index improvements by the end of the year. You can see more in this video on How We Calculate Page & Domain Authority.

New Partnerships

Many of you may have already seen the news that Linkscape data (via our API) is now integrated in Brightedge’s enterprise platform. Their software offers an impressive collection of analysis and recommendations, and they’ve shared a few screenshots with us:

Brightedge Product Screenshot

Like our beta web app, Brightedge’s software manages a lot of critical SEO data all in one place (but for much larger sites and organizations – customers include MySpace, VMware, and Symantec).

Brightedge Link Screenshot

They also do some really spiffy stuff with layering meta data onto links (like "blog, wiki, directory, etc." as descriptors of the type of links you’re getting). This isn’t yet in the Linkscape API (probably 6+ months away) – Brightedge is analyzing the sites and adding this data themselves!

You can learn more about the integration from Laurie Sullivan on Mediapost (the only inaccuracy I saw was SEOmoz offering "consulting services" – something we haven’t done since 2009) or by contacting Brightedge directly.

We’re also psyched about integrations with several other tools and data providers including:

  • Flippa – the web’s leading site for buying and selling web properties now integrates Linkscape metrics in their due diligence section
  • Link Research Tools by Christoph Cemper
  • Raven Tools – an impressive suite of tools for managing SEO processes that now employs Linkscape metrics in their link analysis section

We’ve previously integrated with other tools and platforms from folks like Hubspot, Conductor, Authority Labs and many more. If you’re interested in the API, you can get a free key to use it (up to 1mil calls/month) here and see lots of code examples on our API wiki.

Improvements to Anchor Text

 If you ran previous link reports or have used our API, you likely had the same frustration as infamous SEO rockstar, Greg Boser (of 3DogMedia) as illustrated below:

Greg Boser wants Capitalization Agnostic Anchor Text

We’ve gone ahead and made this change, so that anchor text from Linkscape’s API and the tools it powers (Open Site Explorer, et al) are now capitalization agnostic. This means words that appeared in differently capitalized ways in link anchor text will be consolidated to a single version. For example, we may have previously shown different quantities of links for the anchor text:

  • SEO
  • Seo
  • seo

Following tonight’s update, these will all be treated as "seo" and consolidated. This should make Greg and a lot of other SEOs, considerably happier. :-)

Index Stats

This month, as always, we’ve got a new index with freshly crawled pages and links. Stats are as follows:

  • 41,362,566,619 (41 Billion) Pages
  • 366,305,174 (366 Million) Subdomains
  • 96,445,118 (96 Million) Root Domains
  • 409,355,797,533 (409 Billion) Links

Some other interesting numbers this month include:

  • 5.1% of URLs contain rel=canonical – the highest yet!
  • 3.1% of URLs contain a meta noindex directive
  • 2.06% of all links are rel=nofollow
    • 57% of rel=nofollow links are internal (pointing to pages on the same domain)
    • 43% of rel=nofollow links are external (pointing to pages on different domains)
  • 84.9% of all links are internal (linking to pages on the same root domain)
  • 87.5% of all links point to pages on shared c-block of IP addresses

Look for even more exciting things from Linkscape over the next few months, with some really big, exciting improvements to freshness and coverage by year’s end.

And, as always, feel free to give us any feedback you’ve got!

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Post image for Repeat Business: There’s More of You to Love

Are you familiar with the following concept?  It is much easier and more cost effective to sell to existing customers than it is to acquirer a new one.  Which one would you rather have?  Sell 50 items to 5 people or 50 items to 50 people.  When you are designing and tweaking your marketing campaigns, be sure to include your current customer base and maximum their profit potential.  Here are several ways to do just that, give your customers a reason to come back for more.

Special Discount Offers

I recently purchased something from an online retailer.  When I received my package, I noticed there was a discount coupon inside that I could use on my next purchase.  I’m a sucker for coupons and many consumers are.  It is a great way to encourage and entice your customers to order again.  For best results, the coupon should have a higher discount value than what is normally offered to the general public on sites like Retailmenot.com.  The discount should also be a one-time use coupon.  This will prevent others from sharing it online and reduce the perceived value.

Make them Feel Good by Giving Back

Everyone likes to feel good and there are lots of ways you can make your customer’s day.  For example, have you ever been to a bar, had a few drinks and then the bartender says “This one is on me.”?  Did it not put a smile on your face and make you love that bar even more so?  Now, I’m sure the bartender doesn’t actually pay for the drink, but has the authority from the owner to give out free drinks as he/she sees fit.  Customers also do not like to feel inconvenienced.  When was the last time this happened to you?  You walk into a store and your purchase comes out to .04.  You hand the cashier five ones and she gives you back 96 cents in change.  Don’t you just love all that change?  Why couldn’t the cashier simply say “The 4 cents is on us.”?  Not only would it speed up the checkout process, but also make the customer feel valued.

Email Clubs

Many businesses, especially restaurants are starting to see the value behind email clubs.  An email club should be designed to notify customers of special promotions, pricing and discount offers.  This type of communication creates a unique connection with your clients.  Not only does it allow you to directly contact your clients on an ongoing basis, but constantly reminds them of your brand.

VIPs

The well known 80/20 business rule states that 80% of your business will come from 20% 0f your customers.  Whether this applies to you or not, you should give your most profitable clients the VIP treatment.  The customers that love you the most by spending the most money with your company are the ones that have the most to give back.  Those customers are more likely to tell others about your products or services.   There are countless ways to give your customers the VIP treatment.  Some examples could be an exclusive customer service number, special VIP discounts, higher reward points or a personal relationship manager if you sell an ongoing service.

Reward Programs

Reward / loyalty card programs seem to be very popular today.  There can be a lot of value in this type of program, but it is also the least favorite of mine for several reasons.  Most reward programs require the customer to keep track of their rewards.  They also usually require multiple visits or purchases before any type of reward kicks in.  Take JCPenney’s rewards program.  You earn one point for every dollar you spend.  Once you reach 250 points, you receive a store credit.  The kicker is you must earn the 250 points within 30 days.  This is not very appealing unless you have a major purchase.  Consumers like instant gratification.  The closest you have to it, the better.

So give your loyal customers more reasons to love you.  By doing so, you increase your chance of them telling their friends about your company.
Creative Commons License photo credit: seanmcgrath

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Repeat Business: There’s More of You to Love

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Posted by randfish

For a long time, if you asked me about spamming the search engines, whether with hardcore black hat tactics or merely gray hat link acquisition, I’d say that in the long run, neither was the right move. Building a great site and a great brand through hard work, white hat links, solid content and marketing strategies has always been my path of choice. It still is today, but my faith is definitely wavering.

Why?

In the last 12 months, I’ve seen (or, at least, felt) less progress from Google’s webspam team than in any previous year I can remember. Popular paid link services that Google’s search quality folks are clearly aware of have worked for months on end (some have done so for years). Crummy, low quality directories and link exchanges have made a comeback since the big shutdowns in 2007-8. Even off-topic link exchanges, which experienced their own blowback in 2006-2007 have started working again. Horrifyingly bad sites are ranking atop the results using little more than exact match domain names and a few poor quality links. There’s even a return of the link farms of the early 2000s, with operators creating (or buying old domains and converting them into) junky, one-page sites to boost their own link popularity.

On nearly every commercially lucrative search results I pull up these days, I see bad links pushing bad sites into the top rankings at Google.

Examples of Web Spam in the Rankings

I made a promise to Aaron that I wouldn’t "out" spam, and although I still don’t believe it’s the wrong thing to do morally (it hurts everyone’s search/web experience, why should SEOs band together to protect it?), I do want to keep that promise. So, while I can’t point you to any particular links or sites, here’s a good set of queries where plenty of link manipulation is keeping a few, some or many of the top (5-10) ranking sites in those positions:

Just run a few OSE reports on some sites that rank well here and you’ll see what I mean. There are numerous players in these listings who don’t have a single natural or editorially endorsed link. And you don’t need to limit yourself to these queries either.

3 Steps to Find Lots of Link Manipulation

Step #1: Search for "SEO Friendly Directory" and visit a few of the sections included in the resulting sites that come up.

Step #2: Search for the primary keywords the directory-listed sites are targeting in their title tags or the anchor text they’ve gotten from the directories.

Step #3: Check out the top 5-10 listings in the rankings and you’ll find an abundance of sites with few to no "natural" links whatsoever

Why is Google Letting So Much Spam/Manipulation Go Unpenalized?

I don’t know. But, I do have some guesses:

  • Scalability of Spam Fighting Tactics – it could be that the ability for Google’s team to combat web spam has diminished due to the increasing size, complexity and demand in search. Perhaps fighting spam is a much tougher problem in the 100s of billions of pages than it was in the 10s.
  • They’re Working on Something Big – for many years, Google would let lots of spam they clearly knew about pass… for a while. Then, they’d release an algorithmic update to defeat a huge layer of spam or seriously cripple certain types of link manipulation. If that’s the case today, this would be one of the longest times between updates we’ve seen (MayDay had a small impact, but it wasn’t link-manipulation targeted from everything I’ve seen).
  • Too Much Baby Thrown Out with the Bathwater – perhaps, as link manipulation and spam have grown in popularity, Google’s found that they can’t penalize a technique or sites employing it without dramatically reducing the usefulness of their index (because so many "good," "relevant" sites/pages do some dirty stuff, too). If this is the case, they’ll need to work on much more subtle, targeted detection and elimination systems, and these might be substantially harder to employ.
  • WebSpam Team Brain Drain – The spam fighting team put together by Matt Cutts from 2001-2006 was Google’s cream of the crop. He personally hand-selected engineers from search quality (and other departments) to combat the black hat menaces of Google’s early growth days. SEOs could frequently interact with many of these crazy smart folks, from Brian White to Aaron D’Souza to Evan Roseman and many more. That interaction today is largely limited to the webmaster tools team, which may be an appropriate PR move, but it’s hard to know whether the new team is up to the task. We do have one new, semi-publicly contributing webspam team member, Moultano, on Hacker News (you can see all the threads he/she has participated in on the spam topic with this query).

    Matt himself is finally taking a well deserved break, but even at home he’s much less public on the web, much less active on webspam topics on his blog, visits fewer conferences and now invests in startups, too (which surely takes up time). I don’t mean to criticize Matt in any way – if I were him, I’d have left Google long ago (and he’s clearly put in more than his dues), but the possibility remains that the team he built is no longer intact, or no longer of the quality it was in the early years.

  • Live and Let Live – It could be that although Google’s public messaging about webspam and link manipulation hasn’t changed, internally their attitude has. Perhaps they’ve found that sites/pages that buy links or run low quality link farms aren’t much worse than those who don’t and having relevant results, even if they’ve used black/gray hat tactics, isn’t highly detrimental to search quality. Certainly in some of the examples above, that’s the case, while in others it’s less true. I recall that years ago, the MSN Search team noted that they’d much rather fight poor qu
    ality results in the index than fight high quality results who happened to buy links. Maybe Google’s come around to the same philosophy.
  • They’re Counting on New Inputs to Help – Part of Google’s initiative in acquiring social gaming companies, building social platforms and making data deals with folks like Twitter could be to help combat spam. They may have hopes that leveraging these new, less polluted (or, at least, more easily trackable) forms of recommendation/citation can be a big win for webspam and search quality.

Why Rant About Spam?

"Blah. Blah Blah. So what if Google’s not doing as much to stop spam as they have in years past?" I hear you ask.

My concern is primarily around the experience of searchers and what it might mean if results become polluted not just by good or relatively good sites that happen to buy or manipulate links, but by really bad crap – the sort that makes searchers want to find a new way of getting information on the web (Facebook Q+A? Twitter? Yelp?). Search today is an amazing marketplace of web builders, marketers, suppliers and customers. If the last of these – the customer – slowly becomes disenchanted with Google, the world of search marketing and the amazing utility of search in general may come to an end.

If you use search engines or work in search marketing, that should be the last thing you want.

That said, if you believe that most of the "spam" will eventually be beaten out by either legitimate results or by better sites that also spam/manipulate links, then there’s much less to worry about (I’m not fully in either camp and can see both sides).

So, What Should Legimitate Marketers Do?

Please DO NOT go out and spam the results, buy links, submit to crap directories and open up link farms. Even with this current trend, I believe that would be terrible advice. Plenty of sites do get caught and filtered, and I’d rather know that my site was safe and every piece of content I added and link I built would help bring more traffic than constantly worry about the small but real risk of being penalized or banned.

One thing Google has done is continue to make the experience of penalization a horrific one. It’s hard to know if you really have a penalty, nearly impossible to figure out what triggered it and onerous, almost Kafka-esque, to attempt to get back into their good graces. If you can live with that risk, as professional black hats do with their churn-and-burn strategies, then it’s less of a concern. But if you’re building a real business, Google is still driving 70%+ of the searches on the web in the US (and 90%+ in many other geographies), and it would be foolish to take such a terrific risk.

As to the question of reporting the spam of your competitors – that’s up to you. However, Google has certainly made it a less likely, less rewarding activity. Nearly every day, we answer PRO Q+A related to the question of link manipulators outranking legitimate marketers and sites, and I can recall only once in the hundreds of questions I’ve answered in the last few years when a spam report actually led to action (to be fair, I don’t follow up consistently on every one, but many of our PRO members will send a regular ping with updates).

What we can do is to re-double our efforts to build great sites with amazing value for people. No matter what the "search" experience of the future is like, those sites and pages that provide a remarkable experience are sure to surface near the top and receive the added benefit of word-of-mouth praise, viral spread and citation in whatever forms it may evolve to, both online and off.

Some Caveats to My Experience

There are millions of queries that are remarkably spam free and Google has done a consistently exception job fighting spam over the years. However, the recent past has me concerned that they are no longer as interested, diligent or capable of combatting even the most basic spam techniques.

It’s also certainly the case that I’m regularly exposed to many queries and topics that SEOs, both black hat and white, focus on, and thus might see more spam than the average searcher (though anecdotally I’d guess they’re seeing more, too).

What Do You Think?

Have you been seeing more results in the rankings that are performing well despite having virtually no "natural" links? Have you seen Google take action on spam reports? Why do you think the recent past has many fewer examples of big spam-cleaning updates?

I’m looking forward to some great discussion – and this week I’ll be at SES San Francisco (on 5 different panels!) – feel free to grab me and chat privately there, too!

p.s. With regards to Bing, the only other major US search engine now that they’re powering Yahoo! (or on the verge), my opinion is that they have been making substantive strides. They’re still behind Google in many areas (and ahead in a few), but at the current rate, we might actually see Bing surpass Google’s spam detection and filtering in the next 18-24 months, though they will probably still be playing catch up in long tail relevancy/quality.

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