A Big ol’ List of Online Marketing Blogs

by Peter Attia on January 10, 2013

A while back I wrote an article on teaching yourself SEO and I mentioned reading quite heavily. I gave a small blog list of places to get started and received a few requests for more, which I’ve finally put together.

These are all blogs that I personally follow, however following a large number of feeds isn’t for everyone. I would suggest at least taking a peek at a blog before subscribing, as this list is a mixed bag of actionable, vague, basic, advanced, and sometimes random content.

Obviously, this list is going to be SEO heavy, but there are other industry related sections in here as well. The list is in no particular order, this is just how they happen to be in my reader. Hope this works for you guys!

Search Engine Optimization

Since the term “SEO” has grown to meet a wide array of subject matters, these blogs are going to be geared towards a broader range of topics. If you’re just getting started with online marketing, these blogs are a good place to start. Not because the content is beginner level, but from the wide range of topics covered and how they can accent one another.

ClickzClickZ – Blog | Feed

post rocketPost Rocket – Blog | Feed

youmozYouMoz – Blog | Feed

seo-bookSEO Book – Blog | Feed

search engine landSearch Engine Land – Blog | Feed

sean revell01100111011001010110010101101011 – Sean Revell – Blog | Feed

branded3Branded3 – Blog | Feed

blueglassBlue Glass – Blog | Feed

bruce clayBruce Clay – Blog | Feed

portentPortent – Blog | Feed

distilledDistilled – Blog | Feed

hubspotHubSpot – Blog | Feed

marketing landMarketing Land – Blog | Feed

marketing pilgrimMarketing Pilgrim – Blog | Feed

matt cuttsMatt Cutts’s Blog – Blog | Feed

quick sproutQuick Sprout – Neil Patel – Blog | Feed

jason acidreKaiser the Sage – Jason Acidre – Blog | Feed

search engine journalSearch Engine Journal – Blog | Feed

search engine watchSearch Engine Watch – Blog | Feed

david naylorDave Naylor’s Blog – Blog | Feed

seo by the seaSEO by the Sea – Bill Slawski – Blog | Feed

seo chicksSEO Chicks – Blog | Feed

SEOmozSEOmoz – Blog | Feed

yoastYoast – Joost de Valk – Blog | Feed

higher clickHigher Click – Blog | Feed

aim clearAim Clear – Blog | Feed

nick eubanksNick Eubanks’s Blog – Blog | Feed

faviconKoozai – Blog | Feed

outspoken mediaOutspoken Media – Blog | Feed

point blank seoPoint Blank SEO – Blog | Feed

buzzstreamBuzzStream – Blog | Feed

seer interactiveSEER Interactive – Blog | Feed

Chris CounteyChris Countey’s Blog – Blog | Feed

techipediaTechipedia – Tamar Weinberg – Blog | Feed

viperchillViperChill – Glen Allsopp – Blog | Feed

triple seoTriple SEO – Chris Dyson – Blog | Feed

bill sebaldGreen Lane SEO – Bill Sebald – Blog | Feed

david cohenDavid Cohen’s Blog – Blog | Feed

blind five year oldBlind Five Year Old – AJ Kohn – Blog | Feed

anthony pensabeneAnthony Pensabene’s Blog – Blog | Feed

linkbuildrLinkbuildr – Blog | Feed

john dohertyJohn Doherty’s Blog – Blog | Feed

gaz copelandStoked SEO – Gaz Copeland – Blog | Feed

the saloon of literatureThe Saloon of Literature – Blog | Feed

rkgRKG Blog – Blog | Feed

kiss metricsKiss Metrics – Blog | Feed

Pay Per Click

If you’re trying to learn more about adwords, these are the blogs to keep up with. Some of them may veer in other directions occasionally, but the bulk of the content will be PPC focused. Through these you can learn more about how to properly set up your Google, Bing, and Social advertising campaigns. You’ll also see a lot of keyword research topics being covered, which can help you with your SEO efforts.

cardinal pathCardinal Path – Blog | Feed

google adwords blogGoogle AdWords Agency Blog – Blog | Feed

marin softwareMarin Insights – Blog | Feed

certified knowledgeCertified Knowledge – Blog | Feed

aquisioAcquisio – Blog | Feed

calculate marketingCalculate Marketing – Alan Mitchell – Blog | Feed

beyond the paidBeyond the Paid – Blog | Feed

alex cohenAlex Cohen’s Blog – Blog | Feed

wordstreamWordStream – Blog | Feed

ion interactiveIon Interactive – Blog | Feed

ppc heroPPC Hero – Blog | Feed

ppc chatPPC Chat – Blog | Feed

quality scoresQuality Scores – Blog | Feed

red fly marketingRed Fly Marketing – Blog | Feed

reightous marketingRighteous Marketing – Blog | Feed

web rankingWeb Ranking – Blog | Feed

search marketing insiderSearch Marketing Insider – Blog | Feed

Conversion Rate Optimization

I consider CRO one of the most important branches of online marketing, because of the hidden benefits of user experience, brand perception, brand trust, and of course the increased revenue potential. These blogs are a great way to learn what propels users through the conversion funnel, which is especially important if you’re doing any landing page testing. You’ll also see some pieces about which forms of content convert better, which is useful on both landing pages and web copy in general.

crazy eggCrazy Egg – Blog | Feed

wider funnelWider Funnel – Blog | Feed

unbounceUnbounce – Blog | Feed

conversion xlConversion XL – Blog | Feed

ux boothUX Booth – Blog | Feed

conversion scientistThe Conversion Scientist – Blog | Feed

ivespInvesp – Blog | Feed

content verveContent Verve – Blog | Feed

convertConvert – Blog | Feed

future nowFuture Now – Blog | Feed

visual website optimizerVisual Website Optimizer – Blog | Feed

online behaviorOnline Behavior – Blog | Feed

conversion rate expertsConversion Rate Experts – Blog | Feed

bryan eisenbergBryan Eisenberg’s Blog – Blog | Feed

copy hackersCopy Hackers – Blog | Feed

conversion voodooConversion Voodoo – Blog | Feed

marketing experimentsMarketing Experiments – Blog | Feed

get elasticGet Elastic – Blog | Feed

Public Relations

These PR blogs are heavily focused on content, customer relations, and social media. Basically anything with a focus on online brand perception. This is a great way to learn where, when, and how you should post news or promotions about your company and brand. There’s also a lot to learn from a reputation management perspective, for example learning how to deal with negative backlash within reviews or social media.

copy bloggerCopy Blogger – Blog | Feed

arik hansonArik Hanson’s Blog – Blog | Feed

danny brownDanny Brown’s Blog – Blog | Feed

dave fleetDave Fleet’s Blog – Blog | Feed

social media explorerSocial Media Explorer – Blog | Feed

top rankTop Rank – Blog | Feed

adam sherkAdam Sherk’s Blog – Blog | Feed

beyond the hypeBeyond the Hype – Blog | Feed

convince and convertConvince and Convert – Blog | Feed

brian solisBrian Solis’s Blog – Blog | Feed

rohit bhargavaRohit Bargava’s Blog – Blog | Feed

journalisticsJournalistics – Blog | Feed

pr dailyPR Daily – Blog | Feed

spin sucksSpin Sucks – Blog | Feed


Most of these blogs will cover startup leaders efforts, strategies, and insights. There aren’t typically a whole lot of actionable items in these posts, but it’s a great way to learn tactics business owners used to achieve steady revenue and growth. There’s also some good management and leadership advice to be learned through these posts, which can be important for advancing in your career.

a vcA VC – Fred Wilson – Blog | Feed

both sides of the tableBoth Sides of the Table – Mark Suster – Blog | Feed

mixergyMixergy – Blog | Feed

killer startupsKiller Startups – Blog | Feed

startup tunesStartup Tunes – Blog | Feed

steve blankSteve Blank’s Blog – Blog | Feed

sujan patelSujan Patel’s Blog – Blog | Feed

web strategistWeb Strategist – Jeremiah Owyang – Blog | Feed

chief marketing technologistChief Marketing Technologist – Blog | Feed

the entrepreneurial mindThe Entrepreneurial Mind – Blog | Feed

enrepreneurEntrepreneur – Blog | Feed

guy kawasakiGuy Kawasaki’s Blog – Blog | Feed

marketing profsMarketing Profs – Blog | Feed

seth godinSeth Godin’s Blog – Blog | Feed

duct tape marketingDuct Tape Marketing – Blog | Feed

small business trendsSmall Business Trends – Blog | Feed

venture hacksVenture Hacks – Blog | Feed

business insider war roomBusiness Insider – War Room – Blog | Feed

Relatable Interests

Most of these have little to do with marketing directly, however they occasionally cover topics that are loosely related and geared towards the tech industry.

adverblogAdverblog – Blog | Feed

Adverblog showcases some of the best advertising campaigns pulled off from small and large brands. These can be everything from tv commercials, to social media campaigns, but tend to be video focused. The campaigns are extremely creative and are great for some out of the box brainstorming.

betashopBetashop – Blog | Feed

This is Fab’s blog. Even though they’re not a marketing company, they occasionally share great industry related insight. For example, during the holidays they announced that nearly 60% of their holiday sales were mobile. Now, of course Fab has a very different e-commerce model than most, but the fact that the number is attainable at all is information worth knowing. It’s these kind of stats that keep me checking in on their blog.

pando dailyPando Daily – Blog | Feed

Pando Daily is really a mixed bag of all things internet. They talk about everything from VC funding and Google authorship to tablet comparisons and app revenue. The number of daily posts can be overwhelming, but their posts are consistently intriguing and worth a read.

dilbertThe Dilbert Blog – Blog | Feed

Seriously? Comics? Actually the blog has little to do with the Dilbert comics themselves. It’s comprised of thoughts from the creator himself, which are surprisingly relatable to anyone working in the tech industry.

google blogOfficial Google Blog – Blog | Feed

Little SEO value is gained from following the Google blog, but it’s a good way to get a sneak peek of what goes on indoors and get an idea of what they’re involved in.

Note: If anyone notices a dead link, please let me know.


Grey Hat SEO Techniques That Work

by Peter Attia on December 20, 2012

Recently everyone has been talking primarily about content marketing and pearly white hat techniques. While I do think these methods are the safest route to take, they’re not the only ones that work. It’s important to know about various practices, even ones you don’t intend on ever using. You can gain insight into what your competitors are doing, get a better understanding of how the algorithm works, and learn how to fix issues if someone comes to you from a previous search marketing agency.

I’m referring primarily to grey hat techniques. These are techniques that can give you a slight advantage, but may not follow Google’s guidelines 100%. This means there could be some risk involved, albeit a low one. These are not to be confused with black hat techniques, which can give you an even greater competitive edge, but carry a very large risk.

Here are some grey hat techniques that I know about and continue to work to this day.

Grey Hat

Grey Hat Link Building Techniques

  • Give your product to bloggers to review
  • This is pretty straight forward. You can reach out to bloggers and ask them to review your product. They’re usually eager to accept, since everyone likes free stuff. However, since you’re giving an incentive, it’s possible for it to be considered a paid link.

  • Redirect old domains to yours
  • This works better than it should for pages targeting less competitive terms. You can hit up sites like Name Jet and purchase niche related domains that have backlinks pointing to them. You can then redirect those domains to a new page your trying to promote.

  • Offer bloggers a donation to a charity of their choice in exchange for a link
  • This is another one that could be considered a paid link depending on who you ask. Instead of offering a physical or monetary incentive to bloggers, offer to donate to a charity related to their interest. This works especially well on blogs “with a cause” for example, blogs that raise awareness or eco-friendly blogs.

Grey Hat Design Techniques

  • Moving content with CSS
  • This one can be a little tricky. Basically, you want to write the code of a site to where the content is as close to the top as possible and then use CSS to make the content appear lower on the page. The thought behind this is since the content is at the top it will be one of the first things Google crawls and thus giving it more “weight”. Then you can push the content down with CSS visually so you don’t harm the usability.

  • Cloaking content elements behind tabs
  • This is similar to above, but with one big difference. The content isn’t visible when you first land on the page. Instead, you can put several tabs or a “more info” button which will show the content when clicked. This way robots will see the content (which is great for rankings), but users have to click to see it; allowing you to optimize for conversion instead. While this does seem like black hat cloaking, since the buttons are functional and the content isn’t fully hidden, it doesn’t break guidelines. However, It’s still a very sneaky and frowned upon tactic.

  • Linking internally through unusual elements
  • This is another sneaky one that can be done various ways. Most commonly, it’s done through a separate tab like the cloaking content mentioned above. For example, you can do a “more services” tab and link to several of your own pages. However, you can take this one step further and turn selections, such as drop down menus, into links. This way the serve a functional purpose and don’t look like links, but they will still pass juice.

Grey Hat Content Techniques

  • Creating a separate page for each keyword
  • This is one that can really be beaten to death as long as you have the patience to write the content for it. You can create a new page for each keyword you’re trying to target, keep it off your navigation, but make it crawlable. This way you’re not harming usability, but you can pull in some traffic from long tail keywords. I’ve seen this done with everything from a few thousand pages to a quarter million pages. I would never recommend doing anything like this, but if you do, make sure to release the pages out slowly (a few thousand pages a month) so no spam filters are triggered.

  • Elaborate merge text or spun content
  • This goes hand in hand with the method above. You should uniquely write the content for every page even if it’s several thousands of pages. However, well done merge text and spun content do still work. Yes, even after panda. The thing you need to keep in mind is the more pages your using this type of content on, the bigger risk you’re taking. A bot spitting out a few hundred pages of content has a low risk of duplication. However, when you make that several thousand, the chances increase dramatically.

  • Creating separate microsites for each niche
  • Microsites are no secret. They have been abused in every way imaginable. However, I will say that the most benefit I’ve seen gained from them is splitting them up by niche for local services. For example, a law firm having one site for their divorce services and then another for personal injury. This allows you to focus on specific areas for each site.

    Something you have to be wary of with this is your local listings. If several websites are using the same phone number and address, it can screw up your places listings. You can resolve this in various ways, including using images instead of text on the microsites.


Personalities That Make Great SEOs

by Peter Attia on December 4, 2012

SEO Personalities

SEO is an interesting industry in that it’s rare someone became an SEO on purpose. Search marketers are composed of several different interests and come from a multitude of backgrounds. That’s one of the things that makes the community so lively. Here are some popular personalities that can be found within the industry.

Note: These “stats” do not represent anyone’s skill set and should not be taken literally. This was all meant in good fun.

SEO Gamer

Gamers are some of the most competitive people around. They play to win and will do whatever it takes to get better. This is what makes them so great at SEO. Although they might not have an expansive skill set right out of the gates, if they need to learn something to make shit happen, they will spend sleepless nights doing so.

They’re quick learners that are great at teaching themselves, allowing them to complete tasks without the help of others. This ability to adapt makes them fantastic at link building and time sensitive campaigns.

Gamers You May Know

Jason AcidreJason Acidre
You may know him as the CEO of Xight Interactive, but before he was an SEO, Jason played Counter Strike professionally.

JP ShermanJohn Paul Sherman
Not only is JP the Sr. Marketing Manager for Five One Nine, a social gaming company, he’s also a reviewer and critic of gaming titles.

Justin BriggsJustin Briggs
Movie buff. Geek. Zombie lover – Justin is the Sr. SEO & Social Media manager at Big Fish Games and rocks a tattoo of the Hylian crest on his forearm.

SEO Artist

The creative side of SEO comes out with these guys. They know what makes one website stand out from the rest and have a strong sense of color coordination and design.

They’re intuition for design makes them a valuable asset when it comes to creating things like infographics, banners, and email campaigns.

They’re great at coming up with creative ways to solve a problem, whether it’s design related or otherwise.

Artists You May Know

Paul David MaddenPaul David Madden
Paul is a search marketing specialist by trade, however in a past life, he was a cartoonist and still finds peace with a good pen, moleskin, and some music.

Shelli WalshShelli Walsh
Shelli works on creative content for online marketing, but it should come as no surprise that she’s touched on everything from illustrations for greeting cards to screen printing.

Akvile HarlowAkvile Harlow
This internet marketing & advertising operations manager for Third Door Media spends her free time throwing anything from acrylics to spray paint on to blank canvases.

SEO Nerd

Long nights of coding and drinking mountain dew is what created these gentle giants. Hand them a good wireframe and they’ll be able to bust out a fully functional site faster than anyone else could even dare.

Nerds are quick to learn programming languages at blazing speeds, and if they don’t know something, can do the research to figure out how.

They may not be the most socially graceful of creatures, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like to go out and mingle with people in their industry. I think most SEO’s would agree that there is a bit of a nerd in all of them.

SEO Chef

Cooking skills may not seem directly related to the search industry, but they accent each other in ways that may not seem obvious. Recipes require a huge attention to detail as one mistake can ruin an entire dish. Beyond that there are other qualities to be perfected; such as presentation; timelines; and the ability to be experimental.

Search marketing isn’t a science, it changes constantly and everyone does it a little differently. This relation makes chefs great at adapting and understanding the inconcrete laws of SEO.

Chefs You May Know

Pamela LundPamela Lund
A previous employee of BlueGlass and now self employed PPC Specialist, Pamela spends her free time blogging about the art she’s crafting in the kitchen.

Sean RevellSean Revell
SEO director at Evoke search and search marketing blogger, Sean has a passion for cooking and said he would consider being a chef for a living if he wasn’t an SEO.

Gisele Navarro MendezGisele Navarro Mendez
SEO consultant and Social Community Manager at Upstream, Gisele has always been in the kitchen, because she believes every-single-meal should taste delicious.

SEO Bartender

Lots of people have worked within the service industry at some point in their lives. The service industry teaches you how to work in synchronization with several other people as well as how to be socially fluid at meeting folks for the first time. However, there is one job that relies on these traits more than the rest and that’s bar tending.

Bar tending will quickly get you comfortable with meeting people of all sorts for the first time. They also have to work fluidly with everyone else or things get thrown out of synch. This makes them cooperate with others like a well oiled machine.

They’re great with the social side of online marketing, like outreach, social media, and networking. This also makes them great at training new employees.

SEO Musician

Hours spent with a pen in hand created these lyricists. It takes serious dedication and motivation to excel in musicianship and the same goes for SEO. Musicians will stretch themselves to the limit to do the best they can and reach that end goal.

They’re good at working with creative content wether that be for a landing page or a promotional piece. There’s also a technical side to musicianship with understanding scales and chord progression. This can make it easy to digest algorithmic factors.

Let’s not forget that they’re completely used to being on stage infront of a crowd. An invaluable asset for presenting and speaking.

Musicians You May Know

Bill SebaldBill Sebald
A Search marketing consultant with a passion for CRO and UX, Bill fell into his career from a record shop that strived to take things online. He plays infront of a live audience to this day.

Stephen CroomeStephen Croome
Stephen isn’t just an SEO, he’s a man of biology and a lover of startups who expresses his passion for music through his guitar.

Anthony PensabeneAnthony Pensabene
He may be an SEO, blogger, and content writer, but Anthony’s also had a passion for the drums since he was just a kid. Eventually playing gigs in Philly and LA.

SEO Geek

A secondary trait for most people who work in the tech industry, Geeks can have a multitude of different interests. They like spending their time on blogs, forums, and other online communities to read, discuss, and share with people of similar interests.

While Geeks tend to be savvy developers, they enjoy collaborating with like minded people. This makes them great with social projects such as running a blog, webcast, or any online community based effort.

SEO Punk

A love for the underground scene and a mind built for analytics is what molds these interesting players. They’re strong charactered, but carry a heart of gold.

Data is their friend and they’re great at using a large variety of tools to attain it. Allowing them to perform their tasks more efficiently and at a larger scale.

Their strong willed nature makes them great at both leadership or being a one man army.

Math Punks You May Know

Julie JoyceJulie Joyce
Founder of Link Fish Media and author for Search Engine Land, Julie studied calculous and can often be spotted listening to The Clash, Buzzcocks, and The Sex Pistols in the office.

Bill SlawskiBill Slawski
Bill follows patent filings to analyze how search engines work. He was once a frequenter of Trenton watching bands like Flipper, The New York Dolls, and The Ramones.

Garrett FrenchGarrett French
Garret is known for his link building agency, Citation Labs, however he’s also a fan of punk influences and math rock bands; like Battles, Marnie Stern, and Slint.

Embed this as an Image:

A huge thanks to Adam Ellis; creator of character design.

What kind of personality are you?


A Kismet Dream [Comic]

by Marshall Owen on November 29, 2012

Blog Comments


An Open Discussion on the Current State of Link Building

by Chris Dyson on November 27, 2012

An impromptu tweet from Peter Attia regarding the fact he no longer identified with the term link builder got me thinking more about the term “link building” and also about what would we all be doing in 2013 and beyond. With the changes within the industry following the recent Google updates SEO companies have begun to change their direction somewhat.

After a few emails back and forth between Peter and I we invited some of our smart peers to join in the discussion.

Below is the unedited discussion which occurred between the six of us:

Sean-Revell Don Rhoades Anthony Pensabene Peter Attia Nick Eubanks Chris Dyson
Sean Revell Don Rhoades Anthony Pensabene Peter Attia Nick Eubanks Chris Dyson

1.) Is the term Link Builder relevant today for the work that SEO’s perform?

Chris Dyson
Personally, Link Builder is a term I find doesn’t justify the work load now involved with the types of work that I identify with.

Link Builder is a bit of a dirty word in some circles as it has connotations with web spam and someone who uses software such as Xrumer or Mass article directory submissions.

I am all for using tools to make my life easier and to help me speed up the process of prospecting for links e.g. finding link research tools, CRM but ultimately a degree of being able to sell & market yourself and/or your client to webmasters is now a very highly sought after skill set.

What that term should be now I guess is open for debate but I do like using terms such as outreach, outbound and community in identifying the work I do.

Peter Attia
I agree. There have been several times where I’ve mentioned the term link building/link builder and people immediately recall lower quality strategies.

I’ve even had someone tell me they’ve never used link building as an SEO tactic for their company, because they didn’t believe in it. However, when they explained their content promotion campaigns to me, I realized it was what I considered to be link building.

The term has widened to mean a variation of several tactics, but is leaning towards a bad connotation.

Sean Revell
It’s funny how language can change and adapt because of a few articles, conferences and discussions on social media…

As far as I’m concerned building content based links is what we do to help get our client’s product and brand in front of as many relevant, potential users as possible. The link is merely a portal to a better brighter world! If we see ranking increases from the work we do then it’s an added, expected bonus!

Anthony Pensabene
The term is horribly limiting in regard to potential actions performed.

Unfortunately, that is something that needs to be resolved with branding and communication by the industry as a whole and on personal service levels (if you want to make more sales).

“We are a link building company.” Cool, me as Anthony (assuming I’m not anyone else that particular day) understands the implications of “link building company.” Talk to my father, who is in a place to make marketing decisions for his employer. My dad fathered no genius, but he is a pretty smart dude. If you want to “link build” for him, you must speak his language. It’s like, I could tell someone I’m in SEO, or actually give them something tangible to work with in their mind’s grasp.

No “link building” is unfortunately a term that has lost some direction due to the changing landscape of the industry (from the inside) and the slang nature of the term (it’s not immediately understood by the client).

Nick Eubanks
I completely agree with Anthony on this one.

Not only is this language siloed within the internet marketing industry, speak with any Fortune 500 PR or Marketing agency and they most likely will have no idea what ‘link building’ is. As Anthony mentioned in one of our conversations about content as it relates to links – successful marketer’s don’t just focus on the links but instead the relationships that should come first.

I personally think this adage changed long before Rand made the point, but the fact of the matter remains, a fundamental shift has occurred. No longer should links be built, and instead the focus should be on what can be done to attract links. This can be done several ways, for example as Jon mentions you can focus on writing content that is topical for the people who are most likely to create links, or as Wayne mentions you greatly increase your chances of getting links by making sure you target and promote to influencers who are likely to link based on historical actions.

To be completely honest I see the term SEO, in it’s purest form, losing steam in terms of relevance as the roles of internet marketers (which has also come to be used almost interchangeably with the term SEO) continues to evolve into a more cross-functional role.

Don Rhoades
The term link builder is what we might use internally at my shop. Because we know what that means, we get away with using it. I refer to the folks that work under me as the GTD guys. I have seen some refer to their link builders as acquisition specialists or outreach specialists, but I never really cared about the nomenclature, it was always about getting shit done. The term really shouldn’t go away IMO, because I will always have a need for the grunts to scale outreach. Those guys do one thing well, which is outreach. My copy writers, write copy. I know we’d like to think we’re above compartmentalizing, but really it comes down to playing to a team member’s strengths. I make my outreach guys read this post from Ross Hudgens, because I want them to understand the importance of what we’re doing for the client. If they aren’t receptive, they can go home. In the end, I don’t want to do the manual outreach, but if that’s what we can do until the big fish comes along, we need to provide a quality service. The thing we all should remember is that the results we produce for the client are what sets the bar for our reputation as individuals and as an industry. Begging is still a valid technique to me, and that may not give the return I’m looking to score, but it has it’s place. Would I explain to the client that this is spray and pray, of course not. I would show them the value of some of the many techniques that we employ.

Anthony Pensabene
I like what Nick just wrote about “cross-functional.”  Yes, I think to even think of benefitting a business in just online terms is limiting.  For instance, a writer may write something compelling and timely, guerilla marketing on the street corner, handing out copies, inviting receivers to read more online.  Depending on the business model of the client, such marketing endeavors may be way more effective and powerful than an online-only one.

It’s about tailoring marketing in time and space. It’s not static; it can’t be to stay effective.

I was talking to Don last night about some recent thoughts.  I espied Rand Fishkin and Joel Klettke aka the best-looking man in the world discussing the terms SEO, Inbound, Wu-Tang Marketing Ninja… as well as Jacques Derrida on linguistic deconstruction (maybe I made the last part up).

It got me thinking the language/industry does not reflect the intentions of some practitioners.  I like ‘business strategist’ of late; I feel that’s what I want to do, and though broad, everything I want and could help with fits nicely into it.

However, it’s just syllables strung together to form two words.  When you think of that word, what do you see?

Do you see me in a ninja outfit, writing posts, studying business verticals, looking for creative ways to better businesses?  If you do, that’s pretty funny, and you just made me giggle.

But in all seriousness, we have to communicate first and foremost.  Jargon and non-representative terms is fine to debate within the industry; we love it, and will discuss all day.  However, clients have many things to do than try and sift through verbiage.  Ensure our language easily communicates/gives a picture of what we do.

Don Rhoades

Bingo! Marketing to me means: Communicating Value, nothing more, nothing less.

2.) Has your (or your company’s) attitude to Link Building changed in the past 6-12 months?

Sean Revell
In terms of link building we don’t do the lower level stuff now, not because we feel it’s below us but because we don’t think it will give as good a ROI as doing things ‘properly’. This includes considering both results in the short term and possible penalisation in the long term.

Link building to us revolves around 2 areas:

1 – Creating content that people want to read, share and link too whether it’s on site or off site.

2 – Getting involved in communities socially via blogs, forums and social media.

Whether these techniques get us links or not we feel that it’s a good, long term way of working to build a brand’s visibility.

Peter Attia
My perception of link building has consistently changed since my first days in SEO.

There are multiple reasons I think people should stick to the tactics Sean’s referred to. Aside from being better for brand awareness, it also keeps your employees from getting burnt out. Some of the older link building tactics were completely mind numbing.

However, I will always enjoy testing a variation of tactics and seeing first hand what does and doesn’t work.

Link builders like to keep their paladin like appearance and quickly downplay less than spotless link building tactic. This doesn’t mean they’re useless given the right circumstances, but they will never compare to high quality content creation and relationship building.

Anthony Pensabene
I’ve seen a change in the last year, highlighted by a higher call for:

- better content creation
- better outreach

Basically, it’s more aligned with traditional marketing. It’s not a “wow” moment; Google just caught up with itself in regard to the opportunities it affords businesses in using its engine.

For years, link building was able to be more automated and scaled, allowing brands to use engines as a rating system, and it worked, and in many cases still does.

Now, brands are like, “fuck, you mean we actually…

1- have to produce something of quality like in the old days

2- be present on the search engine as a diverse entity; we can’t use it as a rating billboard to manipulate no mo

3- need to leverage content/communication to get traffic and actually <strong>deserve</strong> links as a publication/provider of insight or entertainment to receive them

It’s like pirating movies/music on the web.. the window was there for a time.. and now technologies are catching up with themselves a bit, learning how to stay in control rather than be controlled..

Peter Attia
I think that’s pretty on point, Anthony. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on content that’s “mostly” natural :) For example, sending free products to bloggers for a review.

The content is still completely organic, but at the same time the blogger probably wouldn’t have written about the product on their own.

Anthony Pensabene
I don’t like the tactic for link building, though I am not stating it doesn’t work.  It’s just, aside from the SEO-related value (mo links, mo juice), I would feel the objective a bit vacuous in regard to ‘providing value’ unless really well done.

I’ll assume the enterprise was to get a link first, and (maybe) provide value second?  For instance, if it was a mindless write up on a decent PR would the marketer be like, “Meh. You know what? This is a reflection on the brand, regardless of your good link, and it’s not really presenting value to our consumers. I’d rather you not publish.”

I could see myself saying that, but I also read the print newspaper and hangout at the library…

I might see if, through social media, I could locate someone excitable enough to be an ongoing advocate of the brand.. “A Year in the Life as an XYZ User,” for instance.  Actually John-Henry Scherck wrote a good post about that.

It would dramatically decrease the number of links if you’re only leveraging a small group of bloggers, rather than trying the review method, but I think it’s more effective and aligned with marketing.

For instance, (manlove moment) I would much rather have one of you guys endorsing me than 200 “bloggers” who state, “Antony’s writing is is the best. You’ll will want his writing!”  #gnawmean ?

Peter Attia
Yes, I completely agree. Similarly to what Sean stated, I think it’s a tactic than can hold value when “the link” is an afterthought; instead going after the traffic their dedicated readers can bring in.

Too often I run into product review “strategies” that involve Mommy Bloggers in one way or another. No offense to mommy bloggers, but it’s a blogging niche that’s gotten played out and has lost it’s value. Possibly even in direct correlation with aggressive link builders.

It’s a great example of how a tactic can go through complete overkill and lose it’s real value. Similarly to how infographic links have started to get discounted.

Sean Revell
“Now, brands are like, fuck, you mean we actually have to produce something of quality like in the old days” Haha, brilliant point and this makes my job so much more interesting than it was when I first started out within the industry. I’ve talked to so many clients in the past who have had little to no interest in creating anything valuable for themselves as a brand or for the user. Either opinions are generally changing or I am fortunate to work with some cool clients.

Anthony Pensabene
“who have had little to no interest in creating anything valuable” – sadly… I can relate

Sean, while I’m addressing you, and in the manlove mood (see above), I would like to be transparent in saying I’ve used your blog as an example to an aspiring business person.

They asked about blog writing as a means of branding/connecting, and I showed them your blog, directing their attention to the playfulness, passion, diversity, attention to readers/visitors, acumen of industry, and overall ambiance.  Frankly, it’s fucking awesome.

You, in your own self-deprecating way, really care about providing value to your readers, whether it’s a laugh, a debate, an actionable tip, or just something to get us thinking…  I know you will never admit this in public, and perhaps that is part of the blog’s charm.

I understand to be financially industrious, one must somehow offer/expose the value in exchange for money in return, but too many owners think there’s a moment one can stop/fool/trick/scam/be lazy/outwit/be sneaky, or take a shortcut (this SEO campaign will do everything you ever wanted for your business then self-destruct in 3-6 months… #uncontrollablelaughter ).

If one thinks they can “just” in any regard in business, especially in today’s economy/market where consumers think twice or three times about spending, I’ll steer their attention to someone who’s creating ongoing value, and if given enough time, is very likely going to outshine.  It’s kind of a “I prove you lost already”  #nas moment.

I don’t think there’s a Eureka moment at all in business.  It’s continuous.  I tweeted earlier..

“provide ongoing value … THE END.”

I don’t follow my tweets much, but this is one I wrote that I really paid attention to…

Sean Revell

Ahh, so that’s the reason Chris Winfield got in touch…

Chris Dyson

I’m with you on that one Anthony, Sean’s blog is a great example of having your own voice/personality that doesn’t fall into the standardised blogging format. It’s unique and has created it’s own community based on the values Sean has defined whether he intended to do so or not.

Nick Eubanks
Yes and no. To Peter’s point this is a dynamic trade by definition, so creativity has always been the name of the game and a huge differentiator when it comes to the level and extent that success can be achieved.

Sean’s onto something as he broaches the topic of building for sustainability beyond pure ROI. This seems to be more the anthem of the day with content marketing becoming the 2012 equivalent to the 2009 mantra of ‘Content is King.’

Don’t get me wrong, links are still important, and as marketer’s (in whatever form that continues to evolve into) we still need to get the eyeballs to make the sales. However, what seems to be a sudden landscape shift to produce better content is really just getting back to basics.

Don Rhoades
In the past 6-12 months? Yes and no. My strategies are somewhat constant, yet agile. Now that I am doing work for a PR agency, I can’t do personae like I used to at all. This is okay because it forces creativity and transparency. If the client is coming at me about we only want “white hat” links, I ask what that means to them.  If their answer has to do with relevancy, I always share this quote from Russ Jones with them: “If the link is good for the user, it is good for Google”. So, yes, my attitude has changed because I get clients to understand the importance of traffic over the importance of ranking. But also, no, because I’ve had great mentors that never guided me down the path of quick easy dollars. Would I still drop comments? Absolutely! But why if it has the potential to “hurt your ranking”? Because the fact is, I don’t leave comments for ranking purposes, I leave them to help other readers find my client. Can these actually hurt my client? Maybe, but I haven’t had an instance of that yet. Maybe I’m lucky, or maybe I never went too hard with anchor text. I read more Julie Joyce and Ralph Tegtmeier than I do the Link Expert Du Jour and I’ve always come out ahead. When Penguin hit, the sites I knew would take a hit, took a hit. While the sites I kept clean and always struggled to take from top 10 to top 3, surpassed the top competitors because they were kept clean from any questionable links (even if I bought some of those links at the client’s request).

Chris Dyson
I’m with you and Russ on that and have been for a while (#hipster) build links for traffic not Google. When I have written about link building tactics on my blog (and on others) I’ve not always given tips and tactics on links that will pass you a tonne of “Link Juice” but will actually bring you a glut of targeted visitors whether that’s over a short or sustained period of time.

3.) If so what changes in strategy/direction has that meant for you (or your company)?

Nick Eubanks
Well for starters we have brought much of our marketing efforts in-house. The days of passively relying on external vendors for technical marketing aptitude are diminishing quickly. The best SEO companies who have stood the tests of time are those that actively partner with their customers, take a direct interest in the return on investment from search, and remain personally accountable for their clients overall marketing and growth strategy.

We have also begun to focus more on building, not just content but tools (applications) as we have found that there are a large number of needs within the market that we have the expertise and capability to help solve. This is an important part to step back and look at because it means as a company we are starting to focus on providing value to peers (and potentially competitors) within our industry. Sounds crazy right? But these days it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you share. Never before has giving information away for free brought so much money in the door.

Peter Attia
I’ve felt the first point you made directly. There are quite a few medium sized marketing and SEO agencies around Austin that are struggling to keep larger clients. Not necessarily from lack of effort on their part. Those clients are just bringing everything in-house.

The larger agencies around here are doing fine on this front, but they’re also very hands on with their clients. This is something that requires just as much effort from the client as the agency.

I think this opens up a great opportunity to start in-house link building/content creation training for clients. I’ve noticed an especially increased interest in this since the penguin update and I, for one, am very happy about it. This gives agencies the opportunity to be more rooted with their clients instead of losing them to an in-house team development.

Nick Eubanks

That’s a really solid point Peter that I hadn’t thought about. Do you have any specific experiences where client training allowed you to not only increase the performance of your campaigns, but didn’t adversely affect your client budget?

Peter Attia
That’s kind of a tough one. It depends how you look at it. I’ve had instances where the client hired copywriters in-house as part of the initiative. So in a sense, this increased their budget, but within the in-house end.

For the time being, this is primarily an effort I’m introducing to new clients. Mainly, because clients get skittish when something is introduced that could change their rate. However, the one’s that have taken the leap, don’t regret it. I think something about being more involved in their SEO gives them a sense of control they don’t always have going through an agency.

Anthony Pensabene
I think there is great opportunity for counseling other businesses.  I imagine it could be hard to scale agency processes when the needs of clients are not the same and changing all the time.

Teaching them to address their needs on a day-to-day basis while taking more of an overseer role definitely seems like a viable solution for a number of situations.

Sean Revell
Fortunately Neal and Evoke had been going in this direction (yes really!) long before I joined the company. So you’d have to ask him how he’s adapted. I’ve just walked in and made things progressively worse!

It’s been really interesting watching the industry develop over the last year or so with all agencies pretending to remain calm and ‘in the know’ whilst privately trying to develop strategy that actually works. In 2012 we have seen a massive rush to be seen as a thought leader which has led to some very informative and useful posts. I have tried to remember the good, forget the crap, test like a motherfucker and cross my fingers. I think we might be onto something.

Don Rhoades
I like where Nick and Anthony are going with counselling your clients. Cultivating a relationship with your client this way builds trust. The important thing here is they are who decide our reputation as an industry. They are the ones who we ultimately answer to, as well as each other.

How fucking great is it that you can take a business, build their success, and then they create a job for it? It MUST be what a coach feels like when he takes a kid with raw talent and molds him into a machine who becomes a championship quality player. You’ve created a relationship with a client that goes further than you taking their money in exchange for services rendered. And you create a relationship with an industry peer, who will be in your corner for favors and advice.

If you do this right the student should become the teacher, ask Wil Reynolds. That dude finds the best potentials and makes them capable of doing their own thing. That’s RCS! Realize that we all can do the same, and we don’t need an agency to do it. Educate! I find myself telling clients they need to have financing for their expensive product and that they need to have some of the customization taken out of the process to make it easier for them to make more sales. This is the part of the job where absolute trust is required, even more so than closing the sale with them. And it can be gained by cultivating this type of genuine relationship. I read a lot of talk about this, but I’ve interacted (if not transacted) with some of these game-spitters and haven’t been been more disappointed since I found out that there was not going to be another season of the OC.

Sean makes a good point about testing, if not technique, then thresholds. There is a certain point where you don’t “need” anymore links because they’ll just bring themselves. But where, if at all, does that begin to raise flags of suspicion in terms of quantity or acquisition rate? G has shown they don’t always get it right, and sites that should not have been devalued, were. I think there is room for understanding the balance of what works for the client and what parameters are where. The 80’s and 90’s Boston Celtics were damn good at Boston Garden because they knew their court and all it’s quirks and flaws. Knowing the battleground is just as important as knowing your enemy.

Nick Eubanks
Don gets it. Education is the name of game when it comes to setting and managing expectations. And to bring it full circle, the agencies that are vigilant enough to survive the 5 year window of failure are those that teach their people to fish, instead of continuing to throw fish at them. These are the firms that spend money on education and self-improvement for the future stars of the industry.

4.) What link building tactics are you planning to execute in 2013?

Nick Eubanks
Without completely reiterating my answer to the last question, we are focused on asset creation and refinement. We are looking to develop more reference materials, both in the form of evergreen content (perpetually sustainable content) and a suite of helpful tools.

What works for any industry is the fact that there are going to be common pain points for your customers – that can be addressed with information, and this information is an opportunity for you to provide value in the form of content, that can directly improve the lives of your customers.

This, is creating mindshare that drives business growth. Become a source of information, or better yet, for solving problems, and watch you customer base start to grow exponentially.

Peter Attia
Similarly to Nick, my favorite content projects are implementing full resource sections. For example, I’m working in an industry with heavy search volume for specific recipes. We’re implementing a section that offers comprehensive recipe guides for the products offered on the site. This way when people land on the site for a recipe, they have the option to print it or just order the ready made product. This allows us to be a resource as well as a vendor.

Being a resource on the web can have tremendous benefits. It keeps users returning and as long as you keep them happy, you also gain their trust. Having a fan base that trusts you over your competitors will keep you on top.

Nick Eubanks
Perfect example Peter. I think one thing to add may be making it incredibly easy for your visitors to browse your resource sections, using application add-ons like horizontal pagination and other javascript libraries that can make the reading / browsing experience more interactive and enjoyable for your readers.

We have also begun to implement some Q&A sections within our resource libraries to put the content creation power back in the hands of our audience. This works well in 2 respects; the first is many times our audience members are knowledgeable and happy to help others when they have helpful information. Secondly, this gives us an opportunity to directly engage with our end-users, building on top of our brand, establishing mindshare as a reference, and encouraging them to come back if they need more help in the future. The bonus is user-generated content means it’s less we have to create :)

Peter Attia
Nick, I think user generated content is always great. As you said, it’s less content you have to create. However, I know a lot of businesses can be a little weary of taking that leap in fear of derogatory content. They can instead hand check everything, but that’s something they have a hard time managing.

How do you tackle these issues?

Anthony Pensabene
I may begin exercising Harry Potter owls, or teach chimps to write Pensabene rather than Shakespeare (not really to compose client work, but to entertain me while I compose client work.)  No, but I had to take this to silly town (at least) once.  (I care about your entertainment readers.)

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately for brick-and-mortar stores, and it has made me shift focus a bit to the actual transaction stage.  I know, as a marketer, I can’t turn water to wine, but I do take great interest in interactions.

I think the “we need to figure search engines out” phase is over.  There is a call for understanding and leveraging, while adhering to rules.  “Secret” or black applications, though I’m sure exist, will have less of an impact and more of a risk attached.

I think a return to traditional sentiments, getting into the mind of the consumer and psychometrics, is more important in helping brands in the near future.

Also, snap bracelets are coming back.  I still rock my #Mozcon bracelet on occasion and get complimented every time.

Sean Revell
How will things differ in 2013? Client wise I suppose the aim will be focussed on the same areas but smarter, cheaper and faster. One of my favourite parts of my job is reading people’s ideas and redesigning them to something that I can use with Evoke or our clients. There are a lot of smart people out there, helping me improve, for free. I’ll continue to use the same resources and aim to keep improving next year :)

Chris Dyson
The things I’m planning for 2013 surround scaling processes that allow our clients to obtain links such as automation and outsourcing of low level tasks to reduce costs. No I’m not talking of article spinning or any of that crap – what I’m saying is what have we learned in the past 6 months and how can we make that quicker, slicker and cheaper.

Make your marketing budgets go further by repurposing your content and spreading the message and utilising resources further than just a blog post, whitepaper or video embedded on your site.

Don Rhoades
I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that broken links are going to be a major source of intelligent link building for me. There are too many sales/conversions being left on the table. With the right tools, you can find all the damn links you could want. I have a hunch that repaired links could be deemed more valuable because they serve a purpose to the user. I bet I’m not dropping a clanger if I said I would not be disavowing a goddamned thing, ever. That’s not for me to decide, that is for the the user to decide.

If that link got 2500 visits a month, I want those visits, and the 2500 people obviously wanted it to go somewhere. You better pry open those trunks and get those amps. Eubanks calls it right with addressing pain points with your content. That is what those in the lawyerin’ business call compelling. Calling bullshit on the snap bracelets though, Pensabene. You can get your pockets flipped for that shit around here.

I agree with Nick and Peter about the impact of UGC can provide, I just have a hard time selling it to clients because they are uptight about putting themselves out there. Even with ultimate trust, it is not easy to get them to understand how safe it is and how effective it can be. Even getting them to agree to asking for reviews is sometimes impossible. I think that may be from the client having something they want to keep unknown by the general populace of the internet. Some even understand they get to control what UGC they publish, but told me they wouldn’t feel authentic if they did it that way. Yet they do exactly the same thing on facebook, which doesn’t bring much traffic to the actual site. I’m sure it’s a pitching mechanic that needs work on my part, but WTF?

Nick Eubanks
Peter and Don, it’s true – this is a touchy issue. In my experience you need to make sure you insulate yourself from liability from UGC, and there is really only 2 ways to do this; either you are a content conduit or a content distributor. Each has it’s own set of specific nuances and liabilities.

A content distributor is a website that is responsible not for the claims of the individuals, but for any copyright or trademark infringement that may occur, which implies heavy moderation, think SEOmoz. A content conduit by contrast is a site which is not liable for the content on it’s site, but also does not moderate it’s content, at all, to avoid liability for what it’s user’s have to say and any rights they may infringe upon, think YouTUBE.

Sounds like if your client has concerns over time constraints a solid strategy may be to find topics within their vertical that warrant discussion and contain strong opinions, set up a separate, non-branded website, and let their audience supply the content. How they use this information has limitless possibilities from 3rd party advertising, to surveys, or other social media engagement strategies to drive them cross-channel.

We would love to continue these discussions in the comments below.


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