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On being an email marketing rebel with DJ Waldow via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Enterprise Email Marketing Solution : WhatCounts]

DJ Waldow HeadshotsToday we’re happy to feature an audio interview with DJ Waldow, a WhatCounts alumnus, as he and I talk about email marketing best practices and what rules of email marketing are safe or even good to break. DJ’s the author of the upcoming book The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing, which you can find on Amazon.

As always, if you have questions about email marketing, WhatCounts is ready to help you. Click the Schedule a Demo button if you’d like to explore how we can help you find and grow your email marketing ROI.

And now, the interview with DJ:

Click the download button above if you’d like to download the MP3 for your portable audio player.

Christopher S. Penn
Director of Inbound Marketing, WhatCounts


18 Ways book cover
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Learn 18 different ways to find and grow your email marketing and social media ROI! Promote email with social, social with email, learn how to set up a Facebook Page for email subscriptions, and much more. Download the free eBook now.
Lifecycle email marketing is one of the hottest buzzwords in digital marketing, but how can you make it work for you? Download our free eBook and learn 5 lifecycle frameworks plus practical applications to your email marketing program.

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UK GDP Disaster Far Worse Than It Looks; UK Growth in 2012 “inconceivable” via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis]

The global recession picked up steam today with news of a UK GDP Shock.
The economy shrank by 0.7pc in the second quarter – far more than the 0.2pc fall expected, as record rainfall and the Jubilee holiday added to pressure from austerity cuts and the eurozone debt crisis.

It marks the third successive quarter of contraction, leaving Britain in its longest double-dip recession in more than 50 years.

The Office for National Statistics showed broad-based weakness across the private sector, with construction output down 5.2pc, industrial production down 1.3pc and services output – which accounts for 77pc of the economy – falling 0.1pc. Only public-sector services output, and business services registered any growth.

“I think it’s inconceivable that there’ll be positive growth this year,” said Gerard Lyons, chief economist at Standard Chartered, forecasting a 1.3pc fall in GDP.

Victoria Clarke, economist at Investec, said the economy would now have to grow by 1.2pc in both the third and fourth quarters for the economy to expand by just 0.1pc in 2012 overall.

In March, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the government’s independent fiscal watchdog, forecast 0.8pc growth this year, which now looks wildly optimistic.
UK GDP Disaster Far Worse Than It Looks

A drop of .7% might not seem that shocking in the US, but that’s because the US uses annualized reporting while most of the rest of the world does not.

I asked Doug Short at Advisor Perspectives to show UK GDP as it would be presented in the US.

UK GDP Quarter-by-Quarter Annualized



click on chart for sharper image

Presented that way, UK GDP does look like a disaster. Of course the results were a disaster regardless of how presented, but the US peculiar method of reporting may not be obvious to US readers following European news.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
http://bit.ly/fTLpho
Click Here To Scroll Thru My Recent Post List
Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://bit.ly/xbXsM8 to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.

Shouldn't We Be Doing the Same? via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Financial Armageddon]

Three weeks ago, we learned that the CEOs of large companies are growing concerned about the outlook.

"Survey: CEO Confidence in Economy Drops Dramatically" (The Hill)

The confidence of the nation’s business leaders in the future of the economy has dropped dramatically, according to a new survey by the Conference Board.

More CEOs surveyed view the economy negatively than positively. Only 17 percent viewed the economy positively in the second quarter of 2012, compared to 67 percent in the first quarter.

Only 20 percent expect an improvement in six months, down from 59 percent.

Two weeks ago, we learned that the owners of small businesses are growing concerned about the outlook.

"Another Blow to the Economy: Small-Business Optimism Sours" (MarketBeat)

Small-business owners are getting less optimistic, adding another worrisome piece of evidence to the already troubled economy.

A monthly report released earlier this morning showed optimism among small-business owners last month fell to the lowest level since October. In particular, folks are concerned about future sales and earnings growth over the next six months. Hiring conditions also dropped sharply.

The National Federation of Independent Business’s small-business optimism index dropped 3 points to 91.4 last month. NFIB called the drop a “susbstantial decline” and proclaimed the current reading as “surely an indication of slow growth.”

“This is a blow,” says Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “The scale of the decline is disheartening.”

And, today we learned that the top executives of mid-sized firms are growing concerned about the outlook.

"Mid-Sized Companies Holding Back Investment" (Real Time Economics)

Mid-sized companies are holding onto cash and pulling back on investments in response to mounting fears of a global economic slowdown.

Only 12% of executives at mid-size companies — those with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion — were “confident” about the state of the U.S. economy in the second quarter, down from 15% in the first quarter, according to a survey of 1,000 CEOs and other top executives conducted by the National Center for the Middle Market. Unsurprisingly, executives had an even gloomier view of the situation overseas; just 5% of them were “confident” in the global economy, and 44% weren’t confident at all.

If the leaders of businesses of all sizes are growing concerned, shouldn’t we be doing the same?

10 Mid-Week PM Reads via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from The Big Picture]

My between speakers at a conference reading material:

• About Those Excess Reserves At the Fed (Jesse’s Café Américain) see also Fed Moves Closer to Action (WSJ)
• Stupid Data Miner Tricks – Quants fooling themselves. The economic indicator in your pants. (Forbes)
• The idea that inflation might be our friend is gaining traction (LA Times)
• Companies Say 3 Million Unfilled Positions in Skill Crisis: Jobs (Bloomberg)
• The rotten heart of finance (Economist)
Regret, Remorse, Reprieve: Weill Calls for Splitting Up Big Banks (DealBook)
• Calpers Cuts Risk and Finds Reward, for Now (WSJ)
The lady doth protest too much Geithner ‘deeply offended’ by charges in new book (The Oval)
• U.S. Cities With Bigger Economies Than Entire Countries (WSJ)
• Spot the Socialist (Economist)

What are you reading?

>

Trust in Financial System Falls Back to 2009 Levels

Source: WSJ)

How Guest Posting Propelled One Site From 0 to 100,000 Customers via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Search Engine Watch - Latest]

Could guest posts be your secret path to earning roughly $1 million in monthly revenue? Leo Widrich, co-founder of BufferApp, shares his guest blogging strategy – one that has helped his company acquire more than 100,000 customers in nine months.
How to Improve Your AdWords Performance With Analytics via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Search Engine Watch - Latest]

Where you were previously looking at cost per keyword, comparing against traffic volumes and conversion rates, you now need to add some new metrics into your AdWords data mix: bounce rate, pages per visit, visit duration, and bid management.
The 6 Month Link Building Plan for an Established Website via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog]

Posted by jamesagate

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

You’ve probably seen the extremely comprehensive noob guide to online marketing by Oli Gardner, or the companion noob guide to link building from Mike King, you’ve also likely seen one of the many posts or presentations on SEO for startups (here, here and here) - suffice to say there is plenty of reading material for building new web properties but what about link building for an established website?

There are an abundance of link opportunities (and challenges) that are pretty unique to an established website.

I decided to compile a public Trello board which is based on some of our internal boards for clients to help you to visualise the process I am about to run through.

Please bear in mind that this is not a six-month SEO plan so we won’t be covering site audits or keyword research for example (although you should read this post if you are planning to conduct an SEO audit), I will be focusing on the acquisition and optimisation of links and content for links.

This is how we approach established websites where we are given a full link building brief. I welcome any feedback and additions to this plan. In any case, this is simply the “ideal” scenario, so we don’t do ALL of this with every single client because each situation is different and because realistically we might not have the budget or even the project scope to implement all this. That being said I do hope that this post will give you some avenues to explore. The idea behind the Trello board was that so anyone could copy it and then edit as they see fit, dragging and dropping the various elements and scaling up or contracting the task list as appropriate. I have divided the elements into the following four areas:

  • Content Tasks
  • Research Tasks
  • Link Tasks
  • Other Tasks

On the Trello board, I have put them into our recommended order but as I say, the reason for doing this as a public board is so that you can move elements around as you see fit.

Remember to copy the board before you can start making it your own!

Quick links:

By month


Month 1

Link Profile Audit

The ideal way to start any link building campaign for an established website is to take stock of the existing link profile.

At this point, we’re not even drawing comparisons between competitor link profiles and our own but merely understanding what we have and how closely that aligns with A) the clients goals and B) recommended best practices. I’m not going to get into a white hat/grey hat debate here, when I say best practices, I am talking about what is generally accepted within an educated audience as ‘sensible’.

A blissfully unaware client, and a website with a closet full of forum profile spam for example is something that you need to be aware of (and make the client aware of) before any further work can be carried out. You are not nit-picking at the work of the previous agency but from here on out you are likely to be responsible for the performance of that website in the search engines (and links making up a big part of that performance) and it would be pretty hard to explain to a client with any amount of credibility why their website has dropped off the face of the planet three months into your engagement if you didn’t bring issues like this to their attention. It may well have been links acquired in days gone by, but the client is probably going to blame you to a certain extent.

What to look for?

  • Type of link
  • Anchor text
  • Clusters of similar IPs
  • Link position on the page
  • Quality (defensibility) of the site link originates from
  • Is the page where the link originates actually indexed?
  • Asses internal link structure as well

Some of the above can be automated and that should help you to reduce the number of links that you need to audit by hand.

Action steps:

  • Talk to the client - get previous reports, lists of links developed and understand what has been done up until now
  • Listen to the client - to understand their goals and their current appetite for risk
  • Fire up your favourite link analysis tool

Some recommended tools for the job

Recommended reading

Market Landscape Analysis

This is far less “corporate” than the name suggests. Essentially there are two elements:

  • Competitor Link Profile Analysis
  • Opportunity Mapping (link opportunities and topic areas)

Competitor Link Profile Analysis

You should follow near enough the same process for analysing your key competitors’ link profiles as you did for your own. Not because you want to help them identify their bad links but rather because it enables you to spot their weaknesses, steal anything they have been doing well and frankly, see who is probably swimming naked when the tide goes out.

If a competitor ranks above you but their link profile turns up something which is considered less than ‘best practice’ by all means take this into account but don’t take it as gospel that it will work for the website you are working on.

The key to using your competitor link research to identify opportunity is to think in terms of direct and indirect opportunity. For example, if you spot a strong link that you’re competitor has acquired that you could potentially also earn then this would be a direct opportunity. If, for example, you identify one or a set of links from a particular type of site or niche then this could be considered an indirect link because it might open your eyes to other potential link opportunities from corners of the web you and the client have never been before.

Sometimes though, analysing a competitor’s link profile brings up next to nothing useful that’s fine, just demonstrates that you have the opportunity to stand out in the market long term by doing things the right way.

Opportunity Mapping

Work ‘outwards’ from core customer groups to try to identify key opportunities and niches to target both with the content that you are going to be producing as well as the outreach and promotion you have planned. Communication with the client is key at this stage because it can help you to really understand their various customer segments and branch out from there.

You are aiming to:

  1. Find link opportunities/identify the niches
  2. Discover topic areas

My favourite tool for this is Mindmeister which is a nice, easy-to-use, web-based mind-mapping software. The reason we prefer mind-mapping to say a spreadsheet is because it allows us to visualise the client and then explore different branches, connect niches and even help them to identify new market segments.

Action steps

  • Understand who your competitors really are (not necessarily the businesses your client thinks they compete against).
  • Analyse competitor link profiles - using the methodology described in the previous exercise
  • Benchmark your link profile versus competitors - does your profile stand out in comparison to average figures based on competitors?
  • Identify key opportunities based on competitor link profiles (direct and indirect)

Strategy Development

This is where you turn the MLA into something actionable. Set the course of the rest of the campaign with a clear and focused link building strategy which takes into account your identified weaknesses (i.e. closing the natural search gap) and exploits the obvious opportunities both internal and external. I’m not one (in fact we’re not a company for…) 500 page strategy documents.

A concise set of actions and time-frames that fit onto one A4 sheet of paper is generally how we work.

Never base your strategy entirely on competitor actions; 1) It just isn’t good business sense to be clinging to the tailcoat of the competition because usually that’s where you’ll remain and 2) Just because it worked for them, does not mean it is going to be effective for you.

That’s it for month 1 - it might seem like an awful lot of planning and not much doing but remember that PPPPPP so it will be time well invested. If you have additional time and budget of course you could always bring some activities, scheduled for month 2, forward.


Month 2

Link Removals & Updates

There are two schools of thought here; some say that although certain links might be harming your website you can outweigh the negative impact by focusing on developing good quality ones.

The other school of thought says that you should focus on getting rid of your bad links before you even contemplate acquiring new ones.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on comes down to your opinions and experiences but I personally feel that in a number of situations, a round of link removals and profile pruning is a wise way to spend your time because there is little doubt that some links and in particular those really artificial and spammy links may well be holding a website back - with no amount of good karma going to shift those misdemeanours of the past.

If you are going to embark on a spot of profile pruning and/or link un-building then luckily there are quite a few tools out there to help you. What kinds of things are you going to want to change or update? The anchor text is a common one but consider also URL destination (is there a more natural page that this could link to?). If however you feel the link just doesn’t align with your strategy moving forward then a removal may be a more suitable option.

Tools for the job

  • Link Management Tool from The Link Auditors - free software, makes it really easy to manage your progress, automatically checks the status of links so no need to send a chaser email to see if a link has been removed. All round fantastic tool and my favourite.
  • SEOgadget - Data Gathering Tool
  • Remove’em - self-service link removal
  • rmoov - the backlink removal tool

Content Asset Identification

New websites require new content but the beauty of established websites is that very often they have a catalogue of content assets at your disposal. With a bit of tweaking, repurposing or even just using as they are, the existing content assets can be put to work attracting links naturally (and almost passively) over time and as a reason for proactively contacting webmasters, bloggers and journalists. What kinds of things are you looking for?

  • Whitepapers
  • Long-form blog posts
  • Mobile Apps & tools
  • Free resources & downloads
  • Guides

Think about the customer groups and refer back to your opportunity map. If it is a very large website it can sometimes be worth using Google to perform a site search in order to find an asset which perhaps even the client themselves has forgotten they produced (we’ve done this a few times and turned up something which the client would then say “Oh yeah that old thing…”).

This is a largely manual process but we’ve found Social Crawlytics to be quite useful at identifying content assets which perhaps got ‘a bit of love’ but not really the amount the content deserved. These would be prime examples of assets in need of a facelift or just an update because they are outdated. In essence you are looking for content assets to use ‘as they are’, as well as assets that just need a bit of improvement to get them up to scratch. Identifying content assets rather than just creating new ones obviously saves you some time and the client some budget (since you are optimising what they have) which means other activities can be carried out.

Action steps

  • Talk to the client to understand any content production they have done in the past
  • Dig through the archives of the site (use site: search in Google)
  • Look for pages on the site which have a fair number of links (and ask if it could perform better after a bit of TLC?)
  • Try Social Crawlytics to uncover hidden assets

Gap Analysis of Content Assets

This is one of the simplest analysis methods at your disposal (read how to perform a Gap Analysis) but it is also very effective in forcing you to consider where the asset currently is, what you want to achieve and the specific way you are going to get it there.

For example, you may have uncovered a guide to ‘growing an email newsletter database’ for your email marketing software client. The guide is about 1000 words long and includes some fairly generic tips. They created it because their previous agency told them they needed “great content” on their website, the problem is that “great” means much more than just spelled correctly.

Anyway, the bigger issue is that it doesn’t align with the client’s brand of being a market leader in the space and a competitor has produced a far more comprehensive guide, not amazing but still leading the way currently. Your content asset needs a reason for existence; if you’re not aiming to make the content asset the category killer then you may as well not bother. Go big or go home I’m afraid.

So we now have “the future state” and “the current state” - how do we fill in the gap? We identify all the ways we could lead the market with the asset e.g. enhancing our guide to make it more detailed, paginated for better user experience, add videos, action steps, screenshots and templates that clients can use.

You’re not aiming to match your competitor’s content assets, you need to surpass them. I’m not so naive to believe that you can create this “awesome content” and then Google will rank it where you’d like but having a solid reason to rank is definitely a required starting point. It will also help you answer the question “why would someone link to this?” - it’s pretty hard to answer that when you have the second or third best resource in the market…

Internal Link Optimisation

Arguably this would come under the remit of whoever is performing the site audit but more often than not we will discover opportunities to optimise internal links simply by performing a link profile audit. It could be that every page has a link to itself within the body copy using the keywords the page is trying to target.

From our experience, the SEO benefit of including a keyword link from the page right back at the page is almost non-existent and in most cases it can harm the user experience as a visitor lands on that page looking for something around that keyword phrase, they will likely click on a highlighted link containing the keywords only to find themselves confused when the same page reloads.

In fact you could even argue that stuffing keywords into internal links is going to harm your search engine performance.

Update old guest posts

Only applicable if your client has previously embarked on guest blogging. Identify any guest posts that currently drive referral traffic then look at whether these could do with updating or enhancing.

Remember that if a guest post worked well for the client the first time it was published, there is a strong chance it will be well-received by the audience a second time, particularly if the post is quite old or outdated. It is a good idea to include old guest posts in your plan because updating these can help to preserve your brand reputation should a prospective customer find your website via this post - you don’t want them to think your ideas and expertise are outdated (even if there is a date on the blog post!).

Pro tip - look at ways to promote old guest posts that perform well. See here for more on second tier link building.

Link reclamation

The theory here is that over the years as domains change, staff come and go, site structure evolves, there are very often hundreds if not thousands of pages that get left behind without a redirect.

Many of these have links pointing at them which now that your page 404s are likely to be doing very little for your website. Link reclamation involves you taking back that link equity, no real extra effort required, you are just making the most of what you already (in theory) have. Still don’t believe me that established websites offer incredible link opportunities?

Garrett French covers this process spectacularly in his 7 ways to find your long lost links.

As Eric Ward rightly points out, the bigger and older the site, the more opportunities for link reclamation there are likely to be.


Month 3

At the half-way point in the plan, now it’s time to get on to the really fun stuff. It is going to be a busy four weeks…

Take control of social

This may not be a possibility with some larger clients as many will have either a dedicated agency or in-house department that looks after social but link building and social media are becoming more and more intertwined so the need to have access to a usable social media account is essential.

In some situations we are able to utilise the main social media account of the client, and where this isn’t possible, we’ll establish a sub-account usually based around an individual within the business who we are working closely with - they’re going to become the public face of the business for the campaign.

It is important to have access to some form of social presence (ideally Twitter) because it enables authentic communication with the higher-value link prospects that might need warming up before the email outreach. It also gives a further avenue to push out blog content and promote guest posts so that as time goes by you have an extra carrot to dangle in front of link prospects in the form of social traffic to their website.

Taking control of social is never easy, we have had situations where we couldn’t tweet a guest post because it was on a site that wasn’t owned by the client!

Improve the content assets

Back in month 2 we conducted a gap analysis to identify any content assets in need of some attention and more specifically what it is that we needed to do to bring them up to scratch.

Here we are in month 3 and it is time to get to work. When it comes to improving the content, consider whether what you are doing is going to benefit your prospective customers, or whether you are just padding out an already mediocre piece of content.

I am a big fan of creating content that helps to attract links and simultaneously helps to support the sales process in some way either through attracting attention and bringing targeted visitors into the top of your funnel, or helping a user in a buying state of mind choose between which printer they need.

Don’t add bulk to your assets just for the sake of it. Align closely with your Gap analysis to ensure your asset is going to be the indisputable top dog in the space.

Link Repossession

This element can be broken down into three areas:

  • Images
  • Words
  • Mentions

The overall aim is that we are trying to get the links that are ‘rightfully’ yours because someone is either ‘borrowing’ your content, using images without attribution or mentioning your website or brand without linking to you (potential missed opportunity).

Images

Using Google’s Similar Image Search or the seriously cool TinEye you can quickly find other places around the web that use your images. These may be corporate photography that you paid to be produced or it could be charts and graphs. Basically another website publisher is using your image (knowingly or not) and you rightfully deserve an attributing link. You can work your way through the image collection on the website (ignoring stock photography that you don’t own the rights to…obviously) and building a list of webmasters that you need to be contacting. TinEye also offer a number of products and services for doing this on a larger scale.

We have experienced a fair response rate to our emails simply by being friendly and explaining that we’re glad they’ve chosen to use our image but that it would be really great if they could just include a link back to our website so that people know where it came from. Nothing heavy or involving legal action…most seem amazed that they have either been caught out or that this kind of thing is even monitored and in their state of shock are more than willing to include an attribution link (hint: don’t go for keyword rich anchor text).

Words

You can also employ a similar tactic with all the words on the website, by using Copyscape you can quickly identify text from your website that has been “borrowed” by others. A big, established website with oodles of content perhaps as a knowledgebase or a series of blog posts will find that a lot of content has been pinched by others without attribution.

Let me be perfectly clear here, many websites who pinch content are just doing it to essentially steal your work for their own purposes. A polite email is unlikely to score an attributing link from them but there are a small sub-set of content copy and pasters who overlooked copyright issues and were simply referencing your work to support something they have written. These are the ones that will likely result in a link.

To try and prevent this in future consider deploying Tynt which allows you to automatically add attribution to any chunk of text that is copied from your site and pasted elsewhere.

Mentions

If you are working on the website of a large established brand then there are likely to be an abundance of opportunities on almost a daily basis to seek a link when nothing more than the brand name or URL is mentioned - bloggers and journalists do this all the time.

It’s not a guaranteed link of course because some purposefully haven’t included a link and don’t forget to be polite because the mere fact they have mentioned the brand or website is worthy of a thank you :-) Getting a link in this way can help improve user experience because if the reader wants to find out more then they would have to Google it or manually type in the URL - you get the link, the reader gets a better experience.

To try and prevent this in the future consider setting up Google Alerts for key brand mentions so that you can strike the prospect whilst they are warmed up and ask for that link.

Get blogging

This is a link building plan right?! What’s blogging got to do with building links? We see blogging as central to a link building strategy because from the blog so many opportunities can come:

  • Directly earn links with solid content
  • Establishes credibility to help with outreach
  • Gives you a platform to get the attention of link prospects

When it comes to this particular link building plan, it is a good idea to co-ordinate your content calendar with your guest blogging targets for the month ahead. This allows you to include links to any websites that you might be targeting and also gives you a highly-relevant post that you can showcase to link prospects if they are unsure of the calibre of your work. I have produced a fairly comprehensive and regularly updated guide to blogging for your business and I would encourage you to have a read of this for more detailed thoughts and advice on corporate blogging.

Acquire direct competitor link opportunities

Back in month 1 you researched and analysed the link profiles of competitors and now it is time to put into action some of that research. Any opportunities that were labelled “direct” e.g. worthy of you also acquiring should be acquired at this point in the campaign. There are all sorts of justifiable business reasons to go after links that your competitors have, not just because it is a case of “they have it, we want it” but rather because you don’t want to be missing out on referral and even sales opportunities when your competitors are clearly taking advantage of them.

Use your best judgement when it comes to acquiring competitor links because replicating their link profile is unlikely to be a good idea and more importantly you want to make sure that any links you are developing are going to align with your current strategy and help to support the achievement of your goals rather than hold back the site.


Month 4

As we pass the halfway point for this plan, month 4 involves fewer activities but they are often more involved and require more resources.

Guest blogging

In month 3 the blog published content that was tailored towards a specific niche (tied back to our opportunity map in month 1) ideally linking to a few prospects. Now we are looking to push out some guest posts to bring in some fresh links and boost referral traffic. I have published quite a few posts and guides around the topic of guest blogging and so I won’t go into too much detail here but essentially you can break the process down as follows:

  1. Identifying link opportunities (use your opportunity map)
  2. Sifting and evaluating opportunities
  3. Researching prospects
  4. Contacting prospects
  5. Writing content
  6. Facilitating publication

Reading to consider

Yes, these were all written by me (hence why I said “reading to consider” rather than “recommending reading” - I don’t have that big an ego) and whilst there is other content out there on the topic, most describe “how to do guest blogging” in a different way and I prefer to only talk about what I know. Guest blogging makes up quite a large part of the plan for Month 4 so ideally you will pick your largest and most opportune topic area from your opportunity map.

Keep blogging

Very simply this is a reminder to keep your blog on the map. Tailor this month’s content calendar to the guest blogging campaign a month ahead. This will give you the same advantages as before when it comes to targeting a new topic area in month 5.

Blogger outreach to content asset 1

In month 3 we improved a content asset and with the best will in the world this takes time so it is only really likely at the start of month 4 that you will be able to start putting the asset to work in the form of promotion. We typically separate outreach and promotion to bloggers (and journalists where applicable) and webmasters. We target the former first as many prefer to talk about fresh topics whereas a webmaster including a link to your guide will still likely do so as the guide becomes more established.

Telling a blogger that you launched something three months ago is unlikely to evoke a feeling that they are important to you. Reaching out to a blogger to promote a content asset is different to the pitch you make to secure a guest post spot and in many ways it can be more challenging. We recommend a two-pronged approach to blogger outreach

  • Social outreach - taking control of the client’s social account suddenly seems like a good move :-)
  • Sending emails

It need not be any more complicated than that. The devil is in the detail though because it is how you do these things which affect the results that you see.

I think Mike Essex's contribution to this post (see the section on ‘push content’) is a really solid example of a good outreach email for this kind of thing. Your social efforts should follow suit in the sense that it needs to be specific and targeted towards what the individual is likely to be interested in and how it helps them. I would add to this that the success comes in selecting your prospects and developing a relationship over time.

Perhaps connecting the practices of guest blogging and blogger outreach to make the most of your connections and be specific in all communication, call to actions are essential if you want to get things done. Don’t leave them wondering why you emailed or what they need to do.

Additionally, the campaign is made or broken by the targeting, if you have for example 3 clear niches to approach it encourages the systematic acquisition of all available links, thinking that your content appeals to “everyone” is going to result in you poorly targeting everybody.


Month 5

Webmaster promotion to content asset 1

In month 4 we promoted the content asset to bloggers (and potentially journalists), now we are going to be pushing the asset to other webmasters with the view to securing permanent links on resource pages and the like to really cement the asset as an authority resource and ensure the long-term visibility of it (in the search results) after the initial buzz and social traffic subsides.

How to find opportunities

Link prospector from Citation Labs

One of our favourite internal tools for identifying link prospects for further qualification. This tool has a “links pages” report type which allows you to discover authentic resource pages within your market.

Competitor analysis

Your asset may well be the market leader now but before it came to existence there was a competitor earning all those links. Using your favourite link research tool, you need to track down all the links and look for direct opportunities as well as the indirect opportunities such as “this type of website linked to the resource, let’s look for more of this type of website”. A key reason we divide outreach rather than do it all in one sprint is because it allows us to tailor our approach based on what is working rather than exhaust our prospects right off the bat.

Guest blogging

As before, but targeting a new segment from your opportunity map.

Blogging

As before, but focusing on the area you intend to target for month 6 with your guest blogging.

Add a new content asset

There are several approaches you can take when it comes to creating a new content asset and the reason I wanted to include within this link building plan was because in reality even established websites won’t necessarily have usable content assets at your disposal when you walk in the door. There are multiple ways to approach this and here are a few of our preferred methods:

  • Publish content they already have - large established websites usually have established businesses behind them and frequently established businesses have mountains of content that they aren’t really putting to good use. In your quest to create linkable assets, you might decide to repurpose something that they already have - (think optimising what they already have).
  • Look for opportunities in your market centred around customer questions - if you really are working from scratch then it is advisable to return to your opportunity map from month 1 and explore each of the market segments in detail to help build a picture of the type and theme of your content. (Read HubSpot’s excellent guide to creating content centred around buyer personas).
  • Find content assets of competitors that you could really do better - identify opportunities in your market by looking through the content your competitors have created, chances are they haven’t done it as well as it could be done then do it better.
  • Look for pages in your competitor’s site that 404s but has link equity (from external links) - this is a long shot and to tell you the truth we have only managed to do this once. Essentially you perform link reclamation on your competitor’s website but rather than help them with their redirects, you create your own amazing version of the page that 404s on their site and reach out to all the webmasters that link to it. It isn’t that this can’t work, it is that the opportunities are rare but I felt it still merited a mention.
  • Outsource something - a content asset could be more of a linkable asset for example a mobile app, a bit of free software or a handy tool, if these things fall outside of your expertise then you may consider hiring someone to take care of it.

Month 6

You made it, six months of link acquisition and link optimisation. By now you should be really seeing the fruits of your labour paying off. Just one more month of activity then time to benchmark performance…

Influencer outreach for new content asset

Based on all your activities in the market over the previous half a year, you should have developed some relationships with influencers such as bloggers, curators, editors and maybe even journalists. Both they and the market as a whole should now have a feel for what you or your client is about and have some sense of goodwill towards you.

This activity is about enhancing this goodwill but also leveraging it because you will be seeking the help of the influencers you are now acquainted with to help you launch the shit out of this new content asset.

There’s no template outreach email for this one…subtly interweave some egobait into the asset and just ask for people’s help. Most (because they now know you) will probably help spread the word with links, tweets, +1s etc.

Repeat activities

  • Webmaster Promotion to the new content asset
  • Guest Blogging (to the new content asset) - target a portion of your guest blogging efforts towards building links and raising awareness for your new content asset. You can even rework some of the content and tailor to specific blogs to save time when it comes to writing the guest posts.
  • Guest Blogging - as before, this time targeting a new niche from your opportunities map.
  • Blogging - once again think ahead in terms of the content you produce, align with any plans you have on the horizon.

What do you think to the plan? Obviously one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to link building but this is just designed to be a loose template to give you an idea of how we work and also some food for thought. How would you improve it?


James Agate is the founder of Skyrocket SEO - a trusted link building & content marketing company.


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Advertising Across Major Social Networks with SociBuzz via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Affiliate Marketing Tips from Super Affiliate Zac Johnson]

One of the best ways to create ad campaigns and see instant results is through the use of social media. Thanks to networks like Twitter and Facebook, you can have access to over a billion users. Just reaching a small fraction of this audience could result in a lot of incoming traffic and leads for your business or sites. However, the problem still remains… how are you supposed to create ad campaigns on these social networks and reach the right audience?

A new solution that aims to solve this problem is SociBuzz, which is attempting to make the advertising process a lot easier for the anyone to grow out their ad campaigns through major social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Blogger and all the other places you love to update and connect with friends. SociBuzz is currently in beta, but they are accepting user applications to try the network out and are also looking for some quality feedback on how they can better their site and services.

Creating an Account with SociBuzz

Once you sign up for a free account through their site, you will then get to fill in your personal details and all of your social networking sites. You can see in the screenshot below that I connected SociBuzz with my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts, which resulted in a 15,557 reach (shown on right side). Since SociBuzz is focused on connecting as many people to as many social networks as possible, they also include YouTube, Tumbler, MySpace, Blogger and LinkedIn as well.

Below your account information you will also see the publisher opportunities. These are offers that you can send out to your social audience and you would receive a designated cost per click that you send to the advertiser. Right now there are only 9 different campaigns to choose from, but it’s also important to remember the site is currently still in beta.

Creating Ad Campaigns and Making Money with SociBuzz

This is where SociBuzz will be most interesting to online marketers, which opens the possibilities to make money through all of the different social network advertising options. When you create an account with SociBuzz, you can also start creating your own ad campaigns. When creating your ad campaigns, you can choose which social networks you want to accept for advertising, the type of Twitter accounts you would like to allow (based on follower amounts), worldwide targeting or country based, categories and lastly the amount that you are willing to pay per click and your end budget for the campaign. Depending on the social networks you select and your Twitter account preference, this will also affect the end cpc that you will have to pay per click through the network.

The Future of SociBuzz and Where Opportunity Comes Into Play

As mentioned earlier, SociBuzz is currently in beta, so that means there is plenty of room for growth and improvement. While many social users are open to the idea of making money with their accounts, targeting high end brands and users is another story. With the low amount of offers available, along with the lower cpc payout rates, it will be hard to attract this type of audience. SociBuzz also offers a ridiculously low minimum payout of $1 (through paypal) for their publishers, and also have catered to their advertisers with full tracking and fraud prevention which includes basic unique IP / GEO filtering and black list

There will always be money when the volume is there, and that is where opportunity for SociBuzz lies. Like other social media advertising networks out there, SociBuzz targets the majority of big social networking networks, while other services focus on just Twitter and Facebook. The site is currently in beta, but if approached efficiently, they could have a nice amount of volume flowing through their site. It all depends on how well the social users and advertisers get a value out of the service.

If you would like to look at the opportunities that SociBuzz has to offer in the world of social network advertising, sign up for a free account and also send them your feedback on what you like and how to improve their current site and services.

On Knowing (And Experience) via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Six Pixels of Separation - Marketing and Communications Insights - By Mitch Joel at Twist Image]

How old should a Social Media Manager be?

It’s not hard to create an online firestorm by blogging something that is more perspective than experience. No one is feeling the brunt of this more than Cathryn Sloane these days. On July 20th, 2012, Sloane published a blog post titled, Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25, over at the Next Gen Journal in which she attempts to explain why the best Social Media Managers are those who understand the Internet more than everybody else because they grew up with it. She states: "…every generation has changes in history that define them, and social media happens to be one of those for mine. I do commend the way companies (and basically the entire population) have jumped on the social media bandwagon and recognized that it is the best way to connect with people nowadays. Yet, every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience."

It’s a ridiculous statement.

I’ve blogged about this before. Just because I use a lot of electricity (I’m constantly turning on lights, flicking switches and plugging in stuff), it doesn’t mean that I should be an electrician. I’m not an electrician. I’m not trained. I haven’t practiced and just because I use something or have always been around it, it doesn’t mean I have any semblance or experience or expertise with it when it comes to using it for success in business.

Knowing how to use something is not experience.

I hate talking about young people in this manner, because it makes me feel old and like a parent. I’m also cautious because I would never want to discourage anyone from speaking their mind or putting their thoughts out in public. Blogging is a great way to do some critical thinking and get some additional perspective. So, instead of attacking Sloane’s thinking (enough people have already done so… just look a 550-plus comments), let’s look at the more macro truth: you can’t fake experience. Experience (actually doing the work - and not just tweeting about it - day in and day out over a progression of time) is something you can’t fake. You have to earn it… the hard way. There’s a reason why so many blogs have failed to gain significant traction over the years: most of the bloggers lacked real work experience (which provides vision) to see it through.

Social Media is still fairly undefined.

That’s the real 800 pound gorilla in the room. Social media isn’t an ad, it’s not a marketing campaign and it’s not customer service (sorry). It’s a publishing platform. It’s a place where any brand (or individual) can publish - in text, images, audio and video - instantly and for free to the world. With that comes a group of people who see it as a free broadcasting platform, or people who see it as a place to help customers get their answers, or a place share ideals. This judgmental attitude is silly (to me). It would be like going back to the days of Gutenberg’s press and demanding that everything being printed must be a certain way. Do you think we would have things like poetry, comic books, magazines and fanzines if we judged the printing press the same way we judge social media? We’d probably all be priests and nuns.

Don’t be confused.

Sloane’s heart was in the right space. She’s right: her generation understands the very underpinnings of what makes something social and why people behave this way. That shouldn’t be swept under the rug. We’re going to need that generation to help us reshape the very fabric of what it means to be a marketer. That being said, those with the greyer hair should not be thrown out with the bathwater, either. Last I checked, I was in my mid-teens when modems and BBS' came online (the original social media) and being connected through these digital channels is something that I have been focused on for around twenty years. I'm not blogging this to toot my own horn, but rather to demonstrate that connectivity, digital media and social media was happening long before Mark Zuckerberg thought up a better way to do what MySpace and Friendster were messing around with. Just because it was popularized in the generation that Sloane represents, it doesn’t mean that what came before it didn’t have the same level of significance, or create a layer of experienced and seasoned professionals able to handle the tasks at hand.

In the end, opinions and ideas are great. Experience is much harder to come by.

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Find Really Cheap First-Class or Business-Class Tickets with ITA Software’s Matrix [Travel] via @cspenn Google Reader

[shared via @cspenn Google Reader from Lifehacker]

One secret that hardcore business travelers know is you can often fly first class or business class for almost the same as flying coach (and sometimes it’s just as cheap). Certain seats are priced like coach but actually upgrade you automatically. You can find them on ITA Software’s Matrix. More »