Why SEOs Need To Stop Automating Email Outreach For Links

Link building is a time-consuming process, so it may be tempting to take shortcuts. But email outreach is one area where you should always invest the time


Email outreach is something that the SEO industry is obsessed with automating. Of all the things that I get asked about, outreach is probably the most common.

What’s the perfect email template you’ve used to get links?

This is a question that always makes me cringe. Yes, maybe a couple of years ago this was a valid question because the industry wasn’t quite used to the flurry of guest blog requests that hit your inbox every day.

Nowadays, guest blog emails have become a more frequent occurrence within my inbox than Groupon promotions! This has forced me to become incredibly skeptical whenever I open any kind of content pitch.

Just take a look at this email that I received a couple of days ago:

Hi there,

Greetings for the day!

Hope you’re doing great.

Writing informative blogs has always been my utmost passion. Today, while searching for the finest blogging sites, I came across your esteemed blog http://www.matthewbarby.com. I really liked the content published on your site and would definitely like to become a part of your writing team.

With an incredible blog writing experience of 5+ years, I’m thoroughly competent in delivering 100% unique, related and informative blogs that are surely going to impress your readers. Hence, I’d like to convey my interest in contributing some value content for your esteemed blog. Each write-up submitted by me will be as per your blog submission guidelines and I assure you that the same wouldn’t be published elsewhere over the web.

If you’re interested in my proposal, do share the topic(s) you’re inclined to publish a blog on. Or else, if you want I can choose a random topic and submit an awesome content on the same.

Does this look familiar to you?

I thought so.

With this in mind, I’m going to share with you some insights that I’ve gained over the past few years of successfully running content marketing and SEO campaigns.

These simple tips should hopefully get you thinking about the approach you take to email outreach, and maybe it’ll cut down the number of terrible emails I get sent each day!

Stop Over-Automating

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m not going to show you the best place to insert your target’s [BLOG NAME] into your email template. In fact, I’m going to suggest the complete opposite approach.

I know that we all want to scale our link building work; but seriously, stop mass emailing 500 people with the same message that’s tweaked ever so slightly!

Even though you may get a few results this way, you’re probably only going to get success with the type of people that will say yes to anyone, which isn’t exactly a future-proof strategy.

Instead of looking at how you can create a time-saving email template, look at how you can automate different parts of the process.

Matthew Barby Outreach Process

Whenever I’m planning some outreach, I don’t begin the process with the outreach itself. You should be thinking about your content first.

The first step that I take is to identify a list of potential publications/websites that I’d like to get my content featured within. To do this, I use a number of different tools and techniques; but, if you’ve not used BuzzSumo before, then you’ll want to check it out because it’s a fantastic tool for finding popular and relevant websites within your niche.


Once you have an idea of the type of websites that you’re focusing on reaching out to, find the individual influencers within each.

For example, you may want to find out who the editor-in-chief is, or a specific columnist related to your content. You can then get an idea of the kind of content they are sharing, reading and creating by using a tool like Followerwonk.

Once you’ve got a good idea of the type of content that your targets are receptive to, this knowledge can be plugged directly into your content creation process. This is something that you can’t automate.

The reality is that if your content isn’t up to scratch, it doesn’t matter how good your email outreach is.

Invest time and resources into creating content that is aimed directly at each individual publication. If you’re creating one piece of content that is going to be fired out to 100 different websites, I highly doubt that it’s very focused.

Crafting Your Email Pitch

Once you’ve prepared your content and you know exactly who you’re going to be pitching it to, it’s time to start crafting your email pitch.

Whilst I’m not going to give you a template with which you can insert your target’s name into and press send, I will give you some general guidelines that my team and I always adhere to:

  1. The outreach email shouldn’t be more than 190 words in length.
  2. You should be addressing the recipient by name.
  3. You should give a very brief intro as to who you are and who your client is (if you’re pitching on their behalf).
  4. The pitch section should get straight to the point of what the content is and take up no more than two paragraphs.
  5. Never send over the full content in your first email pitch. Wait until you’ve had a response and built an initial relationship.
  6. If your pitch is quite complicated, use bullet points to get the main points across in a concise manner.
  7. Add an emotional hook so that the recipient will want more information from you.
  8. Every pitch should be unique and completely personal to the recipient, and a nice way of doing this is to find out what they’ve been tweeting about and start a conversation from there.
  9. Make sure you get across how publishing your content will be mutually beneficial.
  10. The email subject line should not be longer than 55 characters in length and should also include the content idea within it.
  11. Get straight to the point and don’t use buzzwords!

If you want to take a look at a few specific examples of what some top journalists like to see from an email pitch, check out this survey run by Henley Wing of BuzzSumo or this column on Marketing Land by Kelsey Libert.

Another key point that I want to make is that you really want to be measuring the success of your outreach campaigns. If you don’t measure them, how will you ever know if you’re doing something right?

A simple way of doing this can be through just keeping track of all the emails you send, along with the responses you get, within a spreadsheet. If you want to take it a little further then you can use email marketing software like GetResponse.

The advantage here is that you can set up auto-responders, measure open rates, click-throughs and run A/B tests, which will give you a much more detailed analysis into what’s going right/wrong with your campaigns.

Finally, Be Realistic.

The last point I’m going to make is that you need to be realistic with your outreach campaigns.

We all want those top-tier publications mentioning our business, but is this a realistic goal at this stage in your campaign? Maybe it is, but if it isn’t then you should focus on what you can realistically achieve at this point in time and then work your way up to the bigger targets.


  • Stop over-automating your email outreach
  • Less is more when it comes to targeting publications
  • Cater your content to specific targets; don’t work on content as an after-thought
  • Get to the point and be a real person
  • This is about developing a mutually beneficial relationship, not just a transaction
  • Be realistic

via searchengineland


37 SEO Experts You Should Be Following on Twitter

I’ve been speaking at search conferences since 2001 and have spent a ton of time getting to know who is who in the industry. In fact, I look forward to seeing some of you at SES Chicago to discuss Buyer Legends. Every day it seems that there are another dozen experts to follow on SEO. But, who should you really be paying attention to in 2014?

For starters, solid SEOs need to have a proven track record in the ever-changing world of search – remember, search engines like Google frequently update their algorithms. Another criterion is the ability to master everything from creating content for social media accounts to establishing PPC campaigns to turning profits for their clients. After all, it is about delivering the results.

With all those factors that in mind, here is a selection of 37 SEO experts you should know about in 2014, in no particular order. Some you may have heard of, others not so much. Regardless, these experts have the chops to deserve your attention.

Kris Jones

Kristopher B. Jones is an industry leading SEO expert, entrepreneur, and author of the best-selling book Search-Engine Optimization: Your Visual Blueprint to Effective Internet Marketing. Kris is the former president and chief executive (CEO) of the Pepperjam Affiliate network and is currently an advisor to our friends at Internet Marketing Ninjas.

“Get your most supportive customers to write reviews about your business and submit them to Google+.” – Kris @ SEM Rush

Marcus Tober

Marcus got his start in search after developing the SEO tool linkvendor.com, which led to him becoming a pioneer in search analytics software. He founded Searchmetrics in 2007. His clients include very well-known brands like Siemens, T-Mobile, and Symantec.

“The cool thing about search is the way it just keeps changing and growing, meaning website owners and marketers are constantly needing to adapt and exploit new opportunities to maximize their search presence.” – Marcus @ Econsultancy

Bruce Clay

Bruce has been involved in search since its infancy, having founded Bruce Clay, Inc all the way back in 1996. Bruce has been at the forefront of the SEO industry ever since. He is a popular speaker at industry conferences, and is also the author of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One for Dummies.

“Too many companies think SEO is easy, cheap, and that you can successfully fool Google. Clearly Google is fighting deceptive tactics, and the penalties are severe. Take a shortcut to save time and money and you will be hurt by Google.” – Bruce @ Delaware, Inc 

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands a well-respected online marketer and professional who manages SEO PR at Influence People. Murray is deputy editor of Search Engine Journal, and is a frequent contributor to well-known business brands Inc., Entreprenuer.com, and VentureBeat. He wrote Content Marketing Strategy for Professionals with Bruce Clay.

“It’s not enough to just produce content. Your content must educate, inspire, or entertain your audience.” – Murray @ Entrepreneur

Mikkel deMib Svendsen

Mikkel has been working around search engines since 1997. He is the host of the Strike Point radio show and is now publishing shorter and more focused books on one specific topic rather than the traditional textbook, which tries to cover too much information and gets outdated quickly in this industry. The first two books are good examples of how specific the topics will be: Search Engine Reputation Management and Digital Marketing for Healthcare.

“I published this idea about 10 years ago. It is a very effective strategy…I’d call it the best SEO strategy ever, and it’s very, very simple. DO NOT OPTIMIZE FOR SEARCH ENGINES. Focus on users to stay ahead of the engines, this is the best SEO strategy I can offer you today and tomorrow.” – deMib 

Marty Weintraub

With a “Search Personality of the Year” award under his belt, Marty is a very successful innovator in search. He is the founder of AimClear, serving large clients like Intel and Firestone, and is often found speaking at industry events all over the world.

“The coolest SEO practitioners test their keywords, messages, landing pages, and funnels with PPC and then apply what they know to SEO.” – Marty @ SEOCopywrtiting.com

Pierre Zarokian

Mr. Zarokian is an industry veteran with three distinct company foundations under his belt. He started by founding his search engine marketing company Submit Express in 1998, followed by social media firm iClimber in 2008, and most recently Reputation Fighters in 2013.

“SEO [enables] businesses to push down negative pages [to] the second page or lower, where they will be ‘buried’ and attract less attention.” – Pierre @ SEJ

John Rampton

John is sometimes referred to as a “start-up addict.” He is the founder of Adogy, a Palo Alto-based advertising agency, is a frequent contributor to Search Engine Journal and The Examiner, and has twice been named in the top 10 of the “Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts” by Hannapin Marketing.

“Put up amazing content that their customers want. Build products they want to use. Be a company people have to talk about.” – John @ Reputation.com

Brent Csutoras

Brent is the CMO of Pixel Road Designs and founder of Kairay Media, which specializes in content marketing and viral content creation. You can find him speaking on the search and social marketing conference circuit or being mentioned in leading publications such as Forbes and Wired.

“[The] secret sauce is just hard work and dedication. Those are the keys to success with social media, or actually just about anything in life.” – Brent @ SEJ

Cynthia Johnson

Cynthia “The Social Media Girl” is the director of social media marketing for RankLab. She’s been involved with major corporate social media campaigns including clients like Chevrolet and Levis. She has also been a keynote speaker for PubCon.

“Social media as it is now is not here to stay and we should hope that it isn’t. The concept and idea of social media will remain, however, and it will evolve and change just as anything in life should.” – Cynthia @ CytnthaLive.com

Travis Wright

Travis is a self-described “eternal smartass” who got his start as a standup comedian. He’s spent the last 15 years developing and optimizing hundreds of business websites and can be found the speaking at industry conferences like SMX and SXSW.

“Success and fortune are a fickle bitch, so you have to keep moving forward, learning, growing, and evolving in this business world. Eventually, one of these ideas will bust through.” – Travis @ traviswright.com

Duane Forrester

Duane is known as “the online marketing guy” whose current role is a senior product manager for Bing and their Webmaster Outreach Program. He is also staff at Search Engine Forums and speaks at search conferences like SES and Pubcon.

“If it’s me and it’s my budget and I’m spending the money, I’m putting the money into usability before I’m putting the money into SEO.” – Duane @ Stone Temple Consulting

Jayson DeMers

Jason is the founder and CEO of Seattle-based marketing agency AudienceBloom. He is a very frequent contributor to popular sites and blogs like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Search Engine Watch. Jason is very passionate about demystifying SEO for small business owners.

“[More] content results in higher quality, and that’s good for everyone. Lower-quality content will be buried in the noise and won’t yield any ROI.” – Jayson @ Oktopost 

Heidi Cohen

Heidi is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies and has held top marketing positions at well-known content brands including The Economist and DoubleDay. She has also taught marketing at a variety of universities including New York University and Rutgers.

“You always need to keep tabs on what’s happening around you. Keep up with changes in the environment (including styles, politics, and economics), transformations in technology, and the evolution of competitors.” – Heidi @ TopRankBlog

Aki Libo-on

Aki is the author of a beginners guide to blogging called How to Start a Blog and Earn From It. She also is a regular contributor on topics such as content marketing and blogging at Search Engine Journal.

“Every action must have a goal – and not just any ordinary or broad objective, but something that is clear, specific, reasonable and actionable.” – Aki @ SEJ

Drew Hendricks

Drew is the president of AudienceBloom and also serves as a freelance social media strategist and freelance writer. He has several years of experience creating tons of successful social media campaigns for his clients. Drew is also a frequent contributor to publications including The Huffington Post, Technorati, and Forbes.

“The best writers have their favorite authors, so read a few favorite blog posts before sitting down to write. Imitation really is the best form of flattery.” – Drew @ The Huffington Post

Loren Baker

Loren Baker is founder of SEJ and Foundation Digital, his digital marketing agency. Loren has been on the SEO scene for more than 15 years, working with some large fortune 500 companies like General Motors and Disney, and is a bona fide legend of the industry.

“It may sound counter-productive, but focusing less on link building can actually gain more links.” – Loren @ SEW 

Mitchell Stoker

For the last five years Mitchell has used his online strategy skill-set to help more than 40 national and local businesses thrive online. He is currently the owner of Red Barn Ventures and contributes content to Mashable and the Wall Street Journal.

“The solution to this is to build your brand and business on sound principles that will earn trust over time. It takes quite a while to earn ‘real’ trust, but is well worth it.” – Mitchell @ Maple North

Stuart Draper

Stuarts’s mom refers to him as a “social butterfly” but he’s also the founder of Get Found First, a pay-per-click advertising agency founded in 2008, as well as a cutting-edge Internet marketing simulator and course Stukent.

“I would argue that the number one reason all agencies lose business is lack of strong and effective communication.” – Stu @ Get Found First

Greg Boser

Greg has been involved in search engine optimization since what feels like the beginning of time! He is currently the president and co-founder of Foundation Digital, located in the Greater Los Angeles area. You can usually find Greg at leading search engine industry conferences like SMX and the Affiliate Summit.

“I look at [SEO] like I’m a weather man. I think I’m a really good weather man, but there are times when you say it’s going to be 75 degrees and sunny and somebody’s party got rained on. That’s because we don’t control everything.” – Greg @ The History of SEO

Zac Johnson

If you’re looking for super affiliates tips, Zach will tell you how he has made millions of dollars over the last 10 years in affiliate marketing. Be sure to check out his podcast titled “Rise of the Entrepreneur,” which can be found on iTunes.

“Anyone can write an article, but actually being able to write something that people can relate with and makes them want to take action immediately… now that’s powerful!” – Zac @ Agile Leverage

Matt Southern 

Matt Southern is a freelance writer who simplifies search engine and content marketing with a self-proclaimed “uncanny talent” for breaking down the complex subjects into digestible bits of information.

“A solid strategy is like a road map for success. Without one you’re just navigating through the Web aimlessly.”- Matt @ mattsouthern.com

Ania Dziadon

Ania is the CEO and chief strategist of Add Optimization, as well as the CEO of EasyFinance.com. With more than 10 years experience in inbound marketing, her insights have made her a pioneer in the search technology field.

“There is a big connection between lead generation and SEO due to the fact that the majority of quality leads come from the [search] space.” – Ania @ LeadsCon

Bob Rains

Bob’s “official” job title is “SEO Nerd” at CBS Interactive. Bob is known internationally as a “SEO of the Stars” and you can usually find him sharing his knowledge of creating and implementing innovative digital strategies at SEOktoberfest.

“SEO isn’t purely a link game, so why should negative SEO be purely a link game?” – Bob @ SEJ

AJ Ghergich

AJ is this founder of Ghergich & Co. and has been involved in SEO since 2004. His boutique agency creates and promotes visual assets such as infographics, blog posts, and other forms of kick-ass content marketing.

“When you are learning SEO it can be easy to just get into the habit of reading best practices and assuming they are true. The best knowledge you can give yourself is by doing.” – AJ @ Powered by Search

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is indeed very, *ahem* smart-y when it comes to SEO and content marketing. She is currently a blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas and founder of MyBlogU and ViralContentBuzz.com

“I never offer a guest post unless I am 100% satisfied with it and unless I am 99% sure (you can never be 100% sure) that it’s a useful one.” – Ann @ Brick Marketing

Eric Siu

Eric is the CEO of Single Grain, a Southern California-based digital marketing agency who works with both Fortune 500 companies and up-and-coming start-ups. Eric is also a frequent contributor to Entrepreneur.com.

“The number-one cardinal sin most new social media marketers commit is not sticking to a regular posting schedule.” – Eric @ Entrepreneur.com

Marcela De Vivo

Marcela has been involved in SEO for the last 15 years and is the founder of Griffin Media, which serves many internationally recognized clients. She wants you to know if you are interested in learning more about SEO she is absolutely your girl!

“To know what your audience craves, you have to get into their heads. Building marketing personas goes a long way in helping you create content targeted to their interests.” – Marcela @ Social Media Explorer

Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik prides himself in the providing his clients with real, tangible results. He’s been doing just that within the digital marketing space for more than seven years. You may have seen Pratik featured in such publications as Forbes, Moz, and SEW.

“Estimates and correlations might not count as proof of ROI, but when you tie your strategy to numbers, your actions become harder to ignore.” – Pratik @ Crazy Egg

Brian Honigman

Brian’s byline is “Smart. Social. Storytelling.” He’s a marketing consultant, freelance writer, and also a professional speaker – Brian has spoken at NYU, UNICEF, and for The American Advertising Federation. He has also contributed to such publications as The New York Times and The Next Web.

“People tend to trust other people more than they do the idea of a brand, which is why it’s important to occasionally focus on the key individuals that have built your business in order to help build trust as your team explains its story to others.” – Brian @ The Next Web

Andrew Pincock

Andrew is currently the CEO of Traffico, a content marketing, digital strategy, and PPC management firm. Andrew has worked for major players like AOL, as well as several start-up Internet technology companies.

“Metrics are essentially a way for decision making to be easier. At a glance, you can see how much traffic your website is getting, whether your pages are performing as intended, and see ways you can improve your sales.” – Andrew @ SmallBizTechnology

Peter Daisyme

Since 2010, Peter has been the director of search at Pixloo, which helps people sell their properties online. When he’s not busy with Pixloo, Peter shares his love for SEO and online marketing on publications like Search Engine Journal.

“Online reputation management is no longer just about being the most popular. It also has to do with security of a financial asset, personal assets, personal safety and well-being.”- Peter @ SEJ

Joost de Valk

Joost is the CEO and founder of Yoast, which he started in 2010. Yoast consults clients on SEO, online marketing, and WordPress. In fact, you’ve probably used – or are currently using – one of his powerful WordPress themes. Prior to founding Yoast, Joost launched the biggest CSS3 resource on the Web, CSS3.info, and the extension Quix.

“There is a lot of snake oil and a lot of people selling weird stuff around SEO that either does, or doesn’t work, or just works temporarily, which is why the trade has a bit of a bad name. But in the end, today good SEO means getting your site in order technically, then writing awesome content, and have people link to that awesome content so you can get found, which is a bit of a three stage rocket.” – Joost @ Zerply

Eric Hebert

Eric has been working behind-the-scenes in the SEO world for more than 10 years. In 2006 he founded evolvor.com to help those in the music and entertainment industries, and has turned it into a boutique marketing and advertising agency. He recently took on an additional role as director of marketing for DineAbility.com

“Stop reading articles about SEO. Stop reading articles about ‘How Facebook is Going to BLAH BLAH BLAH’ your business. Start caring about your customers, about your service, about being the best damn business owner you can be.” – Eric @ evolvor.com

Dr. Peter J. Meyers

Dr. Pete is a marketing scientist at Moz. Because he’s a cognitive psychologist, he is able to use his knowledge to make “data cool.” He specializes in SEO, online marketing, and data science. He was previously president of User Effect.

“Be curious – about how things work, about what makes people tick, about anything, really. Curiosity is probably the driving force behind data science, and it leads to the kind of passion that can also make you a good marketer. Connect with people early and often – don’t wait until you’re between jobs to network. Building up relationships takes years, and it’s vital to your long-term career opportunities.” – Dr. Pete @ Job Shadow 

Rae Hoffman 

Rae Hoffman, aka Sugarrae, is an outspoken blogger who covers everything in the SEO, social media, and affiliate marketing field on her blog. She’s also the co-owner and CEO of PushFire, a Texas-based Internet marketing agency.

“You and you alone determine whether or not you’ll be successful in your business goals. There are no acceptable excuses in life. There’s only action and inaction-and your choice of which road you decide to take.” – Rae @ Flippa Blog

Avinash Kaushik

Avinash is the best-selling author of Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. He’s also the Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google, co-founder of Market Motive, and runs the website Occam’s Razor.

“I love SEO. It is such a fascinating science and the rewards are awesome. The thing that appeals to me personally is that there are, mostly, a clear set of logical things we have to do in order to rank high for relevant keywords. It is fun to do those things at a system or marketing level.” – Avinash @ Moz

Apologies to the other handful of people I missed. Who else would you include?

This article was originally published on ClickZ.

via searchenginewatch


7-Point Relaunch SEO Checklist

Search engine optimization adherence in the website relaunch/redesign process is a topic I enjoy talking about. In the past few years I have covered a few topics of what to think about from an SEO perspective when undertaking a redesign effort and how to assess potential SEO issues you are experiencing after your new site has launched.

After seeing some clients launch ineffectively recently, it made me revisit a few of these articles and consider the need for a relaunch SEO checklist. We may now know what to consider during the redesign phase and how to remedy issues, but we must follow these items below to have a truly effective relaunch…at the time of pressing go. Some of these checklist items reflect technical SEO considerations for content visibility to search engines and users, items pertaining to on-page SEO, and also analytical tracking items you don’t want to overlook.

1. Redirect Mapping

Ensure that the development team and content team are in a cohesive understanding of the intended new page naming conventions and URL structure. It helps to have a current/proposed URLs spreadsheet shared in Google Drive for these parties to collaboratively assess and revise. This file can be a direct reference in the redirection of URLs during the relaunch. A lack of communication between these two parties could leave you with 301 page redirection from current URLs to page names/structures that do not exist in the new site. This becomes a 404 error nightmare and you can watch your existing rankings fly away post-relaunch.


2. Exclusion Migration

While your new site is transitioning from a staging site to production, you may have placed proper exclusion efforts to rid search engine crawling in the staging area such as a full staging site robots.txt disallow or Meta Robots usage within individual page source code. That is great, but don’t allow these elements to migrate to the production site. Again, you will watch your rankings and organic traffic disappear.

3. On-Page SEO Transition

While your mind may be focused on your new design and how great the new site will look, don’t forget that optimized on-page elements need to transition into the new site, too. You must ensure that the title elements from the staging site will transition to the new site. This also applies to Meta descriptions and other page elements such as H tag usage. Has page copy changed? Ensure that your on-page keyword targeting and copy have contain a synergistic relationship.

4. Internal Linking

A redesigned site close to launch can be rife with internal linking flaws. Before the site goes live you should do manual review of important links. I also prefer using the Chrome plugin Check My Links to quickly assess what links may are broken. Beyond broken links, review the coded link targets to make sure they will link to the true page URL and are not redirecting.


5. Code Review

Above, we mentioned a few code related considerations such as the Meta Robots tag and Meta tag elements, however, there are other items in the code we want to review before launch. You will want to make sure you retain Open Graph and Twitter Card tagging if you currently have this on the live site. Also review the code to ensure there are not any old CSS or JS server side referenced file requests that will not be used in the new site. Having requests to dead files in the future and be hiccups for search engines. I prefer to use a tool such as Pingdom Web Speed to pick up on this type of issue.

6. Look and Feel (Compatibility)

The new site looks really cool to you…but what about everybody else? You must ensure that your new design will provide the same experience for every user based on their browser and browser version. Additionally, be cognizant of what the mobile display will look like and if responsive, how the display order renders. Here you can use tools such as Browserstack or Cross Browser Testing.

7. Analytical Considerations

I have mentioned many times before how important an accurate analytics setup is. A relaunch is a great time for this to fall into jeopardy. The first consideration is tracking coverage. Ensure that every page features the same analytical tracking that the existing site has. This applies to e-commerce tracking as well. Analyzing deeper, if your URL structure has changed, your goal URLs have likely changed as well. This will need to be revised in the Goals section. For the legacy site, have you added any Content Groups? If your folder structure has changed this may likely need revision, too. Last, if you have placed event tracking manually on links in the past you may want to revisit their existence in the soon to rollout version of your site.

Ready, Set, Launch

It is worth saying, as I have in the past, collaboration between all parties is imperative in a redesign/relaunch effort if SEO equity will be retained. While communication is the foundation, the sections above are definitely important focal points in the steps before relaunch. With this in mind, print this and tape it to the wall in your office and hand it out to the redesign team!

via searchenginewatch


Measuring PPC Account Efficiency Vs. Volume: A Case Study

In making your PPC accounts efficient, are you passing up volume that could be profitable? Columnist Matt Umbro checked it out in one account.


As PPC professionals, we are constantly working to optimize accounts. Whether it be improving conversion rate, increasing ROI, or lowering cost per conversion, the job is never done. We want to show our clients the best results and have them feel justified in hiring us.

Another phrase I use in conjunction with the term “optimization” is “account efficiency.”

In other words, are goals consistently being met, or does performance vary month to month? If the former, then chances are the account is efficient, meaning relevancy from search query to conversion is well aligned.

However, therein lies an issue that is constantly on my mind….

Efficiency Vs. Volume

In making accounts efficient, I tend to worry that I’m leaving conversions on the table. I struggle with the notion that I’m making my keywords too specific or that I’m limiting ad exposure in other ways.

And I’m not talking about bidding on a root term in a broader match type in order to secure a few more conversions — I’m concerned that overall account decisions are limiting additional qualified traffic.

To try and quantify this notion of efficiency vs. volume, I’ll be presenting data from an e-commerce account that my agency inherited at the beginning of July. The data will look at Google AdWords year-over-year performance for July, August and September.

The reason I am reviewing this particular account is because we essentially started from scratch. The account had been dormant for a couple of months and, along with a new strategy, needed extensive campaign builds.

I want to emphasize that this case study and my associated thoughts should not be considered universal. As with everything PPC, there are so many variables. What works for one account may not work for another. This study is an attempt to quantitatively review the data and provide my analysis. You might do the same for your accounts to measure their efficiency.

The Case Study

Before presenting the data, I want to share exactly how I went about making the account efficient so as to provide context around the numbers. First off, all new campaigns included these parameters:

  • Ad groups consisted only of exact and modified broad match keywords
  • Each campaign began with a negative keyword list of 80 terms; these negatives came from historical account performance and proactive research
  • All ad groups contained at least four ads — two targeting desktops and two showing on mobile devices
  • Along with Search Network text ads, Google Shopping, Remarketing, Dynamic Search Ad (DSA), and Remarketing for Dynamic Search Ad (RDSA), campaigns began running in the first week of account management
  • Sitelinks were used in every campaign; additionally, we were able to participate in the callout extensions beta and started running in early August

Next, bids were aimed at showing ads within the top three positions. Average position for Search Network text ads (not including Brand) during this time period was 2.2.

Finally, there were general Display campaigns (non-remarketing) running in 2013 that aren’t present in 2014. These Display campaigns accounted for less than 10% of overall spend; however, they encompassed about 1/3 of total impressions.

Traffic Metrics

First, let’s take a look at click-through rate (CTR) and average cost-per-click (CPC) for just the Search Network (as the Display campaigns of 2013 would severely skew data).

Image of CTR graph

CTR remains stagnant in July year-over-year, but the big jumps come month-over-month.

From July 2014 to August 2014, CTR rises by 0.19 percentage points. During that same time period in 2013, CTR decreases by 0.01 percentage point. Even though September 2014 CTR decreased by 0.05 percentage points, it still saw a nice jump year-over-year.

CPCs also trended in the right direction, as 2014 monthly figures were lower than their 2013 counterparts. In both years, CPCs increased from month to month, representing a seasonal trend (which is accurate to the demand of this product).

Image of average CPC graph

Conversion Metrics

Similar to CPC, conversions spiked from July to August during both years. However, conversions nearly doubled in 2014 — whereas in 2013, they only increased by about 17%.

Both September months saw conversion growth from the previous month, as well. September 2014 saw 152 more conversions than August, while, in 2013, August to September conversions increased by 29.

Image of conversion graph

It’s interesting to note the cost difference in relation to the conversion graph. Both years see increased costs month-over-month with 2014 seeing more dramatic changes.

When we compare this graph with conversions, we see that August 2014 saw 84% the conversions of August 2013 at only 63% of the cost. Based upon all graphs so far, the month of August is when the account had its most efficient month.

Image of cost graph

Furthermore, cost-per-conversion in August and September 2014 were at least $1.31 less than their 2013 counterparts. Not only was overall cost and cost-per-conversion lower in 2014, but also, conversions nearly hit 2013 figures.

Image of cost per conversion graph

Revenue Metrics

Following the conversion trend, each month’s revenue in 2014 was a greater percentage of that same month in 2013.

September 2014 revenue was just under 82% of September 2013 revenue at roughly 72% the cost of the previous year.

Image of revenue graph

Finally, when reviewing return on ad spend (ROAS), each month in 2014 is above 500%.

Here is where efficiency comes most into play as the account is spending less and showing a better return. Overall, conversion and revenue volume are lower, but show solid increases month-over-month.

Image of return on ad spend graph

Going Back To The Central Concern

I hope, after presenting this case study, my concern about account efficiency vs. volume is clearer. Based upon all data, account efficiency is much improved over 2013 as ROAS is up, cost-per-conversion down, and CTR increased.

The caveat is that overall conversions are down. The question that must be asked is whether we should be OK with these results. Does better efficiency make up for volume loss?

In this case, I would say yes. Lost in this discussion is that the account has been growing month-to-month, even if volume is lower than last year.

It’s not like maximum efficiency has been hit and everything else is secondary. New campaigns are actively going live while optimizations are constantly being made. Throw in the seasonality factor, and a strong effort is being made to garner more qualified traffic.

Ultimately, the goal of many PPC accounts is to become more efficient. Gaining the most conversion and revenue volume is the main goal in some accounts, but by-and-large, showing high efficiency is necessary.

I would add that there needs to be more of a balance, but more so stacked in the favor of efficiency. In other words, gaining more high quality traffic should complement account efficiency.

via searchengineland.com


SEO Is No One-Trick Pony

This past week, I was joined by Josh McCoy of Vizion Interactive in presenting an SEO workshop for attendees of the Integrated Marketing Summit in Kansas City. The workshop was four hours and the presentation totaled just more than 100 slides.

As you might imagine, there was a lot of stuff to talk about. By its nature, some of that content was a “bit” on the technical side, but we tried our best to speak “English” so that the attendees could walk away with fewer questions than they had coming in.

We wanted the workshop to be interactive, and welcomed questions. One question did strike me as something that I think too often is bantered in executive meetings throughout the world…

The comment (and question), as best as I can recall was something like, “You’ve covered a lot of technical stuff in this presentation, but can you just tell me what the one thing is that we can do to really improve our results for SEO?”

We didn’t dodge the question. I mean, if you had to pick one tactic, I would have to pick “create content.” But, that’s really too simplistic an answer.

I shared with this individual that sometimes content isn’t the answer. Each and every project is unique, the competitive set is unique, and every website (company) has its own set of unique challenges. I shared a few examples of instances where I had worked with large organizations that simply had an issue with getting content indexed. Once this “one thing” was fixed, it was a hockey stick. Traffic, in some cases, doubled. These companies already had authority built into their site (solid link profile/larger brands, etc.). And, in some cases, that “one thing” was the fact that their title tags were absolutely horrible (yes, there are still some with the title tag of “home” on their home/index page of their sites).

There are currently more than 1 million results for an “allintitle:” search on Google for “homepage” and nearly that many for the same search for “home page.”

But, these “one thing” opportunities don’t come around very often.

More often, you are engaging in an omni-channel approach to building authority, strategically developing content, technical stuff, and optimizing conversion rates as much as you are title tags.

This, in my opinion, is “today’s SEO.”

For many of you, this is not news. But, what became clear to me this past week is that there are still many who think of SEO as a “quick fix” or consider it a “do this one thing, and you’ve done SEO.” I’ve certainly read my fair share of wonderful columns detailing individual tactics that are involved in the SEO process, but I don’t know that I’ve seen one which tried to hit upon the various things that go into an SEO engagement, within the confines of one article. I will attempt to hit upon most of these, today.

Today’s SEO

A common expression in recent years has been that “if it’s digital, it’s optimizable.” If we’re really doing this well, our recipe to SEO success involves a lot of ingredients. Here are the few that jump out, to me:

Technical SEO

Once you have content, you need to make sure that it’s indexed. Developing a sound URL structure is very foundational to this effort (you would rather a URL such as http://www.sitename.com/products/name-of-product than http://www.mccoysbikeshop.com/Products.aspx?Categoryid=94&Productid=72 – example pulled from Josh McCoy’s post from two years ago on proper URL structure.) Alongside of this, you’ll want to develop and submit an XML sitemap and work on internal linking.


The basis of SEO is that you have quality content that “speaks to” everything that you do. Finding the keywords/themes of this content is the art/science of SEO (you want to target keywords that have search volume, are relevant, AND that you stand a fair chance of ranking for; see Competitive Analysis, later). Once you have developed a list of targeted keywords, you must determine how these keywords match up with content that you current have on your website (or other properties – see Social Media Marketing) and what content you may need to develop (product/service page content/video/blog, etc.). When you’re creating content correctly, you are creating content that is original, high-quality content that speaks to your intended audience in the right manner, so that they might engage with the content (and your company) and possibly share that content, so that you can work toward earning links.

Competitive Analysis

As stated previously, everything in SEO is relative to the competitive set. You can spend a lot of time in this area of practice (and I suggest that this isn’t merely a “one-and-done” affair, either). At its core, the competitive analysis is about determining the opportunities that exist to do well in SEO (is there light at the end of the ROI tunnel?) and what you might need to do to be successful. My favorite tool remains SEMRush.com for a quick analysis of the opportunity. Enter in some competitor domains and see how much traction they have in Google (SEM Rush provides a “SE Traffic Price” metric, showing what it might cost – in AdWords spend – to get what these guys are otherwise getting “for free” via non-paid search). From there, you might also want to do some site: searches in Google to see how much content the competitors have indexed (and what kinds of content), to gain a sense for what you may need to build. You can also use any number of link research tools (OpenSiteExplorer, MajesticSEO, ahrefs/) just to name a few. Put all of this together in a spreadsheet and analyze the opportunity (and the opportunity cost/work) to get a sense for what the project is going to look like. A good illustration of the process, was developed by Aleyda Solis on Moz, but there are certainly more components that go into an in-depth competitive analysis. Some of those are outlined by Boris Demaria on woorank.


To me, it is impossible to claim that you are an expert at SEO if you aren’t deep into analytics. At the end of the day, we are not optimizing for “rankings.” We are optimizing towards quality traffic increases and an increase in conversions/money.

Usability/Conversion Rate Optimization

In my opinion, an SEO engagement is all about “optimizing for results.” At the end of the day, if I’m the customer, I want money. I want ROI (more money back than I pay in). If it so happens that my “SEO company” happens to spend considerable time in usability/conversion rate optimization, then so be it. A 25 percent lift in conversions/sales is perhaps more important than a 25 percent lift in traffic (and certainly a hell of a lot more important than a general rankings increase). You can certainly use your analytics platform to identify where visitors are falling off and, in some cases, you can simply eye-ball test some things that are obviously wrong with the usability of a website. That aside, I do really like what Lucky Orange is doing with its real-time analytics product. You can see how people are navigating the site, in real time (as well as view recorded visits), gain insight on what the experience looks like in different browsers/platforms, get insight via heat maps for mouse movements, clicks, and scroll depth, and a whole lot more.


For as long as I can recall, we have recognized the similarities in PR and SEO. PR “back in the day” may have strictly referred to “submit press releases to gain links,” but that has certainly not been the case for quite some time. PR is a way of amplifying your message. It’s outreach to journalists/influencers. It’s “promotion.” There’s a lot of great reading out there about how to synergize efforts. One such case study that was developed was this piece by Robin Swire on Moz.com. One very common practice for us is to set up alerts for our clients using HARO, to identify opportunities to contribute to pieces that are being published (folks seeking an expert opinion/contribution to an article that is being written). This is great for the agencies who have clients who are unwilling (unable) to commit the time necessary to write compelling “thought leadership pieces,” but may have time to contribute a few paragraphs. Often, these contributions will result in a link back to your site. Even without a link, I have think that Google is smart enough to pass some value through (as was hinted at last year, in Google’s John Mueller’s Webmaster Central hangout).


In a perfect world, you have enough money (and time) to support both SEO and PPC efforts. And, in a perfect world, there is a PPC budget that can be established/maintained for keyword research purposes. With PPC, you can obviously buy your way into position to gain traffic for specific keywords, and test them, so that you can determine if these keywords are worthy of being a part of the SEO effort.

Social Media Marketing

Much like PR, social media marketing is about amplifying content and trying to earn links, buzz, social shares, and build brand equity. The core of the effort may begin with hosting/maintaining a blog (with good/researched/resourceful content). Developing a blog is not something to take lightly. Please do NOT do this if you do not intend to maintain quality content on a regular basis. How often should you post? Every situation is unique, but I would say that if you don’t intend to update the blog AT LEAST once per week, then perhaps you should consider your options. Step one is determining how to structure your blog. There are reasons why you might consider sub-domain versus sub-directory versus a separate domain. From there, you will want to create an editorial calendar that helps to shape your content initiatives. That said, some of the best posts are those which – quickly – get posted on “hot topics” and are shared, immediately. If you are an early source on something, there is a better chance that you will earn links. Creating the content is one thing…promotion of that content, is another. This is where PR and social media promotion come in. You must get the right eyeballs on your content. If it’s engaging enough, folks will share it. If folks share it, you stand to earn a few links.

There are certainly many other elements that can go into a “full service” SEO engagement (I haven’t even talked about local SEO, video SEO, image SEO, mobile, or a number of other things), but I hope that this has helped to shape the discussion of “what SEO is,” and helps others to understand that it’s not – usually – any “one thing.”

via searchenginewatch


3 Reasons You’ll Drive Better (and More) Leads with Interactive Content

Many marketers feel like the engine is always running. There’s always more to do – campaigns to run, technologies to master, analytics to check… And, of course, there’s the constant need to drive more leads, better leads, and faster MQLs. In fact, 78% of B2B marketers state that “generating more leads” is the biggest challenge they are currently facing.

Increasing your commitment to content marketing is a good place to start, but you also need your content to work hard – and smart – for you.  You probably already know about leveraging your marketing automation with interactive content. But did you know that according to DemandGen Report’s 2013 Content Preferences Survey, only 5% of buyers are willing to provide detailed information in exchange for whitepapers?

That is why many marketers are incorporating interactive content into their overall strategy. Assessments, benchmarking tests, ROI calculators, interactive infographics, interactive whitepapers, and knowledge tests about best practices, as well as old standbys like polls, surveys, and quizzes – interactive content is smart content.

You can think about the benefits of interactive content in three categories – facilitating dialogue, creating a value exchange, and delivering content in new, exciting ways. Here’s how these three benefits break down:

1. Facilitating Dialogue

As marketers absorb an increasingly larger portion of the sales cycle, marketers are naturally becoming better sales people.  And what makes a good sales person? The ability to listen. It’s about dialogues, not monologues.

Interactive content enables you to have real conversations with your audience.  That means you can ask questions and deliver answers that address their specific challenges, painpoints, or interests.  Dialogue-inspiring content delivers dramatically more value (see the next section for more on that) and it’s massively scalable (you don’t need a W2 for your content).

A few examples of companies facilitating dialogue through interactive content:

2. Exchanging Value

Now that we’ve established the need to have conversations, let’s talk about what you’re going to say. If your mission is deliver value at each stage of the buying process, this might take the form of education, problem identification, analysis, and even entertainment.

Interactive content allows marketers to customize an experience for each user, and deliver specific information based on that individual’s needs, pains, or challenges.  But a true value exchange goes both ways – smart content also needs to deliver value to you, the marketer.

Interactive content can pull specific, actionable data from your audience – which can then be organized within your marketing automation.  As they interact, prospects happily provide deep insights into themselves, quickly filling out profile information for lead scoring and triggering campaigns, and creating better, faster MQLs.

Two companies leveraging interactive content to exchange value with their audiences:

3. Delivering Content in New, Exciting Ways

Whitepapers and benchmarking studies can crystalize your thought leadership and value proposition, but they often aren’t delivered in an appealing way. Interactive content can help you slice and dice this information into bite-sized, consumable pieces.

Which is easier to eat? This:


Or this:

fish dinner

When you make difficult or complex ideas visual and entertaining, you help users get invested in the process. Best of all, if you already have whitepapers, you may already have all the content you need. Writing big weighty pieces is hard and time consuming; pulling out some of the core ideas is fast and easy.

Here are a few examples of interactive delivery:

  • Whitepapers can be a challenge to slog through, which is why Unitrends made their whitepapers interactive. (This also leveraged value exchange, as Unitrends was able to collect data on how their audience solves specific challenges around backup and recovery issues).
  • Atmel, a microcontroller and components company, ran a contest to reach their engineering audience – much easier to consume that a technical paper. So far, 82% of their target audience is engaging, yielding more than 11,000 social shares.

via marketo