Tag Archive | "Practice"

Elite SEM acquires CPC Strategy with an eye toward growing its Amazon practice

The e-commerce-focused agency has more than 125 employees and a proprietary retail search advertising optimization platform.



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The Content Marketer’s Guide to Starting a Meditation Practice Today

You and I are storytellers. We’re content creators and copywriters. Our livelihoods depend on spinning creative yarns that compel our readers to action. For the execution of our craft, we depend on some key inner resources every day. Creativity and focus are two biggies. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that — like gold and platinum
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Master This Writing Practice to Find More Loyal Readers

"In order to work, pre-internet writers had to follow a publication’s editorial standards." – Stefanie Flaxman

If you want to write about anything you’d like, as often as you’d like, there’s a place for that: your own website.

It’s a modern privilege that gives writers the freedom to digitally publish their work publicly, with the potential to reach any reader with an internet connection.

Can you imagine going back in time and telling that to someone who only wrote on paper? Someone whose only readers were those in physical possession of their writing?

We’re so lucky.

But we may miss out on ways to spread our writing, because we’re not as accustomed to the practices our writer predecessors needed to implement to get their work in front of new readers.

I want to show you how to seize more contemporary opportunities with classic grit.

And the practice I’m going to talk about is guest posting.

While I know you’ve heard the benefits of guest posting before, I don’t think it’s often discussed as a practice.

A lot has to happen before more readers discover your writing, and one big obstacle blocks many internet-era writers …

Has our entitlement cup runneth over?

Since we’re so used to writing on our own sites, it’s natural to think our own style is acceptable on other sites.

The misconception is that once you find a site that has an audience you want to connect with, you can offer that site a typical article you’d write and lock down a publishing spot on their editorial calendar.

While it’s certainly possible to have that experience with guest posting, many large publications aren’t interested in publishing a post that would appear on your blog.

Instead, they may be interested in your expertise and point of view, but they need you to craft an article that honors their editorial standards and would appear on their blog.

In order to work, pre-internet writers had to follow a publication’s editorial standards.

They didn’t have the luxury of publishing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted; they had to learn to trust an editor’s vision for their writing in order to get their articles in front of new readers.

An example: monster truck racing for ladies

I want to demonstrate how the practice of guest posting — or contributing to a publication other than your own — can help you both grow your audience and grow professionally.

In this scenario, monster truck racing has recently surged in popularity among women. Women can’t get enough information about monster truck competitions, so Edith Editor at Cosmopolitan magazine gets a pitch from Frank Freelancer.

Frank regularly contributes to The Monster Truck Times and runs his own blog, Big Wheel Freaks, where he specifically writes about monster truck races.

Edith likes Frank’s article idea, but she needs to educate him on the type of content that is the right fit for Cosmopolitan. She’ll give him their writer guidelines so he can match the tone and style of his article to the publication’s specifications.

Since Frank is a pro, he knows he needs to be flexible. He understands that Cosmopolitan subscribers aren’t used to reading the usual content he writes for The Monster Truck Times and Big Wheel Freaks.

If he wants to connect with Cosmopolitan’s audience (which he does), he has to adapt his writing based on Edith’s guidance. Frank knows that working writers don’t always get to write exactly what they want, and he welcomes the opportunity to strengthen his creative muscles.

Plus, he understands that if Cosmopolitan publishes his writing, he gains authority and validation as a trustworthy source of information. He has a chance to capture the attention of new people who aren’t familiar with his work and then direct them to his typical articles.

If he didn’t view the situation with that attitude, Edith wouldn’t be able to publish his article and she’d find another monster truck writer with more experience working for a professional publication.

Practice the process of guest posting

So, as you can see, my view on guest posting is more involved than simply getting another website to agree to publish one of your articles.

It’s a process of finding publications that are looking for what you offer and collaborating with them.

Successful guest posting consists of:

  • Building relationships
  • Learning and following rules
  • Adapting your writing to become a regular contributor

Let’s look at each one …

Building relationships

"There is only one reason you should initiate a relationship with a content publisher — you genuinely enjoy their work." – Sonia Simone

The way two people connect and bond may look nothing like what another two people experience, so I think it’s best to view relationship-building as an art form with a variety of factors that are different for everyone.

But that also makes the process a bit difficult to describe.

First, accept that every relationship develops differently. You’ll rarely be able to duplicate something that worked for someone else and get the same results — your copycat version will seem forced and inauthentic.

Second, relationship-building needs you to detach from possible outcomes. For example, when you have an authentic interest in talking to a blogger whose site you enjoy, you’ll genuinely enjoy chatting with them in blog comments or having a quick email exchange.

The experience of connection is the reward.

On the other hand, if you contact someone because you want something from them, you’ll be preoccupied with getting that person to agree to your request. You might even feel entitled to their time and attention.

Your agenda is always more obvious than you realize — and it’s not attractive.

Connect with people you want to meet without needing anything from them. If a relationship grows naturally, somewhere down the line you’ll probably both be happy to help each other out.

Learning and following rules

"That's why they call it work." – Robert Bruce

The first “rule” on your radar should be familiarizing yourself with what certain publications are looking for, or not looking for …

Now’s a good time to mention that Copyblogger does not currently review unsolicited guest post pitches. However, many publications do review them and display guidelines on their sites to help you shape your submissions.

Those guidelines aren’t arbitrary. They are what the publication wants you to submit to optimize your chances of getting the “yes” response that you’d like, so study and follow the instructions.

You want to be intimately familiar with any site you pitch to (like how Frank Freelancer knew Edith Editor would be looking for a monster truck writer), so even if pitch guidelines aren’t available, you’ll naturally know how to grab their attention.

For instance, some publications prefer receiving a full article for consideration while others want to see an outline before the author finishes writing.

Regardless of your publication’s preference, demonstrate that you can offer their readers a new perspective, but that you’re also a professional who will meet their standards.

Pitching to smaller publications is a great way to practice guest posting.

Many won’t have as many rules as larger sites, so getting your writing published is sometimes a quicker process. Even though their audiences may contain fewer people, those individuals may be highly engaged with the site’s content, which helps you initiate new relationships and invite those readers back to your site.

Adapting your writing to become a regular contributor

"'Link building' is something I’ve never done in my 19 years of publishing online." – Brian Clark

It’s definitely an accomplishment to have a site other than your own publish your writing. But guest posting will be the most beneficial to your writing career if you aim to become a regular contributor — to one site or several.

Guest posting can help influence your area of expertise. Keep learning about the topics that the sites you’ve contributed to want to share with their readers.

For example, Frank Freelancer might enjoy writing for Cosmopolitan and continue to perform detailed research on relevant subjects for the magazine. He’ll treat his Cosmopolitan articles with great care and submit his best work.

As you grow a long-term relationship with a publication, they’ll get to know you better as well and appreciate your professional attributes, such as meeting deadlines and submitting drafts without typos.

When you contribute value over time, the publication will also be much more willing to help you out with a favor, if you ever need one.

Finding loyal readers requires the same persistence writers have needed since the birth of the first writing instrument … but I think those ancient writers would have preferred to have access to new audiences on the internet. Don’t squander your upper hand.

Want to grow professionally as a writer?

Our Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful tool to learn new writing strategies and position your business for greater success. Add your email address to our waiting list below to be the first to hear about when we reopen the program to new students.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

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7 Illustrations of How Topical Links Impact SEO, in Theory and Practice

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

As SEOs, we well understand the value links contribute to ranking websites in search results. So much so, it’s something we study regularly here at Moz.

At their most basic, links are counted as “votes” of popularity for search engines to rank websites. Beyond this, search engineers have long worked to extract a large number of signals from the simple link, including:

  • Trustworthiness – Links from trusted sites may count as an endorsement
  • Spamminess – Links from known spam sites may count against you
  • Link Manipulation – Looking at signals such as over-optimization and link velocity, search engines may be able to tell when webmasters are trying to “game” the system

One of the most important signals engineers have worked to extract from links is topical relevance. This allows search engines to answer questions such as “What is this website about?” by examining incoming links.

Exactly how search engines use links to measure and weigh topical relevance is subject to debate. Rand has addressed it eloquently here, and again here. Over the years, several US patent filings from Google engineers demonstrate exactly how this process may work. It’s important to look at these concepts to better understand how incoming links may influence a website’s ability to rank.

This is the “theory” part of SEO. As usual with these types of posts, a huge thanks to Bill Slawski and his blog SEO by the Sea, which acted as a starting point of research for many of these concepts.

1. Hub and authority pages

In the beginning, there was the Hilltop algorithm.

In the early days of Google, not long after Larry Page figured out how to rank pages based on popularity, the Hilltop algorithm worked out how to rank pages on authority. It accomplished this by looking for “expert” pages linking to them.

An expert page is a document that links to many other topically relevant pages. If a page is linked to from several expert pages, then it is considered an authority on that topic, and may rank higher.

A similar concept using “hub” and “authority” pages was put forth by Jon Kleinberg, a Cornell professor with grants from Google and other search engines. Kleinberg explains:

“…a good hub is a page that points to many good authorities; a good authority is a page that is pointed to by many good hubs.”
Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment (PDF)

These were eloquent solutions that produced superior search results. While we can’t know the degree to which these concepts are used today, Google acquired the Hilltop algorithm in 2003.

2. Anchor text

Links contain a ton of information. For example, if you link out using the anchor phrase “hipster pizza,” there’s a great chance the page you’re linking to is about pizza (and maybe hipsters).

That’s the idea behind several Google PageRank patents. Earning links with the right anchor text can help your page to rank for similar phrases.

This also explains why you should use descriptive anchor text when linking, as opposed to generic “click here” type links.

Beyond the anchor text, other signals from the linking page — including the title and text surrounding the link — could provide contextual clues as to what the target page is about. While the importance of anchor text has long been established in SEO, the influence of these other elements is harder to prove.

3. Topic-sensitive PageRank

Despite rumors to the contrary, PageRank is very much alive (though Toolbar PageRank is dead).

PageRank technology can be used to distribute all kinds of different ranking signals throughout a search index. While the most common examples are popularity and trust, another signal is topical relevance, as laid out in this paper by Taher Haveliwala, who went on to become a Google software engineer.

The concept works by grouping “seed pages” by topic (for example, the Politics section of the New York Times). Every link out from these pages passes on a small amount of topic-sensitive PageRank, which is passed on through the next set of links, and so on.

When a user enters a search, those pages with the highest topic-sensitive PageRank (associated with the topic of the search) are considered more relevant and may rank higher.

4. Reasonable surfer

All links are not created equal.

The idea behind Google’s Reasonable Surfer patent is that certain links on a page are more important than others, and thus assigned increase weight. Examples of more important links include:

  • Prominent links, higher up in the HTML
  • Topically relevant links, related to both the source document and the target document.

Conversely, less important links include:

  • “Terms of Service” and footer links
  • Banner ads
  • Links unrelated to the document

Because the important links are more likely to be clicked by a “reasonable surfer,” a topically relevant link can carry more weight than an off-topic one.

“…when a topical cluster associated with the source document is related to a topical cluster associated with the target document, the link has a higher probability of being selected than when the topical cluster associated with the source document is unrelated to the topical cluster associated with the target document.”
United States Patent: 7716225

5. Phrase-based indexing

Not going to lie. Phrase-based indexing can be a tough concept to wrap your head around.

What’s important to understand is that phrase-based indexing allows search engines to score the relevancy of any link by looking for related phrases in both the source and target pages. The more related phrases, the higher the score.

In addition to ranking documents based on the most relevant links, phrase-based indexing allows search engines to do cool things with less relevant links, including:

  1. Discounting spam and off-topic links: For example, an injected spam link to a gambling site from a page about cookie recipes will earn a very low outlink score based on relevancy, and would carry less weight.
  2. Fighting “Google Bombing”: For those that remember, Google bombing is the art of ranking a page highly for funny or politically-motivated phrases by “bombing” it with anchor text links, often unrelated to the page itself. Phrase-based indexing can stop Google bombing by scoring the links for relevance against the actual text on the page. This way, irrelevant links can be discounted.

6. Local inter-connectivity

Local inter-connectivity refers to a reranking concept that reorders search results based on measuring how often each page is linked to by all the other pages.

To put it simply, when a page is linked to from a number of high-ranking results, it is likely more relevant than a page with fewer links from same set of results.

This also provides a strong hint as to the types of links you should be seeking: pages that already rank highly for your target term.

7. The Golden Question

If the above concepts seem complex, the good news is you don’t have to actually understand the above concepts when trying to build links to your site.

To understand if a link is topically relevant to your site, simply ask yourself the golden question of link building: Will this link bring engaged, highly qualified visitors to my website?

The result of the golden question is exactly what Google engineers are trying to determine when evaluating links, so you can arrive at a good end result without understanding the actual algorithms.

About those links between sites you control…

One important thing to know is this: in nearly all of these Google patents and papers, every effort is made to count only “unbiased” links from unnassociated sites, and discount links between sites and pages related to one another through preexisting relationships.

This means that both internal links and links between sites you own or control will be less valuable, while links from non-associated sites will carry far more weight.

Researching the impact of topical links

While it’s difficult to measure the direct effect these principals exert on Google’s search results (or even if Google uses them at all), we are able to correlate certain linking characteristics with higher rankings, especially around topical anchor text.

Below is a sample of results from our Search Engine Ranking Factors study that shows link features positively associated with higher Google rankings. Remember the usual caveat that correlation is not causation, but it sure is a hint.

It’s interesting to note that while both partial and exact match anchor text links correlate with higher rankings, they are both trumped by the overall number of unique websites linking to a page. This supports the notion that it’s best to have a wide variety of links types, including topically relevant links, as part of a healthy backlink profile.

Practical tips for topically relevant links

Consider this advice when thinking about links for SEO:

  1. DO use good, descriptive anchor text for your links. This applies to internal links, outlinks to other sites, and links you seek from non-biased external sites.
  2. AVOID generic or non-descriptive anchor text.
  3. DO seek relationships from authoritative, topically relevant sites. These include sites that rank well for your target keyword, and “expert” pages that link to many authority sites. (For those interested, Majestic has done some interesting work around Topical Trust Flow.)
  4. AVOID over-optimizing your links. This includes repetitive use of exact match anchor text and keyword stuffing.
  5. DO seek links from relevant pages. This includes examining the title, body, related phrases, and intent of the page to ensure its relevancy to your target topic.
  6. DO seek links that people are more likely to click. The ideal link is often both topically relevant and placed in a prominent position.
  7. AVOID manipulative link building. Marie Haynes has written an excellent explanation of the kinds of unnatural links that you likely want to avoid at all cost.

Finally, DO try to earn and attract links to your site with high quality, topically relevant content.

What are your best tips around topically relevant links? Let us know in the comments below!

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Quora Best Practice Tips for Brands

Quora ranks questions and answers by user engagement. Social media metrics on this platform center around the number of followers, views, votes and shares each question has. Here’s a deeper look at how brands and businesses are using Q&A site Quora.
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How The Era Of ‘Big-Data’ Is Changing The Practice Of Online Marketing

In the early days of ‘Mad Men’ marketing, half of all Marketing spend was famously wasted – the Marketer just didn’t know which half. Many a Marketer’s sleepless night was spent wondering what levers of their Marketing spend to push forward and which to dial back. Then, along came the…



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