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Google Algorithm Updates and Changes 1998-2013 [Infographic]

Google Panda UpdateGoogle is most popular search engine at the time of writing and many online businesses depends on Google Algorithm. Google algorithm is the set of rules and expressions which determine how a webpage will rank in Google. In simple word, when you search for any query “SEO changes”, this algo will decide the placement of search results. For any online business and Bloggers, it’s important to keep an eye on Google algorithm updates and changes.
Google is one of the search engines that change their algorithm so much that sometimes it is hard for people to keep up with the updates and stay current. The most obvious reason for these frequent changes is the fight against spammers and black hat SEO techniques.
Most of the changes are minor but each year there are about 500-600 hundred of them. There are also bigger algorithmic updates that Google launches every few months. The infographic shows in a very interesting way how much the algorithm has changed since Google was first launched.
Some of these big updates include the “caffeine update”, the “Panda farmer”, the query encryption and much more. So far, SEO gurus have been able to keep their heads above the water, although Google makes sure this task gets harder every time. In the infographic you will find out what all of these minor and major Google updates did and how they affected the SEO world.

Google Algorithm Updates – Panda Updates

Google Algorithm Updates
Click on image to see large view. Latest Google Panda (3.8 update) happened on June 26th 2012 and latest Google penguin update happened on May 27th 2012..
People who are seeing significant traffic drop in last 1 year, they should keep an eye on following Google panda updates date:


Now, Google algorithm update is happening every month, where Google all changes they have made in recent algo update. Google panda update happened on above mentioned dates which is one of the most prominent Google algo change which happened in last few years. On Feb 23, 2011, when Google panda launched , it affected 12% of search engine results and kicked many of the player out of outline  business, although it helped many at the same time.
Google freshness update was another major change last year, which helped to bring recent & updates pages at the top. Anyhow, if your website is affected by Panda updates, you should check out this guide: How to recover from Google panda.
Now, one thing which is clear in 2012 and in coming year, social signals and your network is going to be one big factor for ranking. My suggestion would be, stay active on Google+ and create Google+ page for your Website and Business. Google authorship is another thing, which I highly recommend you to implement, as author trust factor is going to be another game changer in coming days.
Instead of making changes n your site, after every Google panda update & Google algorithm update, my suggestion would be create a quality and helpful site. Take care of all the factors which includes on-Site SEO, Keyword research, On-Page SEO, Link building, Social media promotion, website usability, website design and so on.

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Why People Hate SEO

Every few months, someone seems to attack search engine optimization. SEOs are often quick to rise in defense of their profession. I’ve done that plenty myself, in the past. But a barrage of recent cold-call SEO pitches in my inbox even has me hating SEO.
Of course, I don’t really hate SEO. That’s because I know the difference between:
  • SEO and search engine spam
  • SEO and snake-oil promises
SEO remains the act of gaining free traffic from search engines, and also to me, gaining that traffic in ways that don’t put you at risk of being banned or penalized by those search engines. It’s a perfectly acceptable activity that even the search engines encourage. That’s why Google itself offers a guide to SEO.

White Hat, Black Hat & No Hat SEO

 Search engine spam, to me, isn’t SEO. Some who practice it may disagree. “Black Hat SEO” to them remains SEO. Just because they don’t want to follow the rules a search engine puts down doesn’t mean they aren’t doing SEO.
OK, then we have two types of SEO, “white hat” and “black hat.” And it’s black hat SEO alone that cause all the problems, right? Nope. That’s because you’ve also got some supposed “white hats” who don’t violate any rules but also don’t actually provide any SEO value. Let’s call them “no hats.”

The No Hat Pitch

I’m pretty sick of no hat SEOs. That’s because they send me crud like this:
The end of the year is quickly approaching, which means holidays, parties, family, friends, and a lost chance to save money on search engine marketing, Website Designing/Development.
We saved the best promotion for the end of the year! ONLY $50!! HuRRy UP!!
Search Engine Optimization. Love your website? Save initial SEO setup fee and see your website on first page of search engines.
No Black-hat methods.
Take a trial for just $50 and get linked with 100 quality websites having page rank up to 5.
Our team works directly with you to meet our target which is #1 position on search engines. We sincerely believe that the above services will merit with the requirements of your Organization
I’m pretty sure spending $50 will do absolutely nothing for me or anyone using this firm. Maybe they’ll somehow place 100 links on the web, and maybe, just maybe, they really will do it without “black hat” methods.
But those links probably won’t really give my site any benefit. What’s the anchor text going to be? If it’s the same for each page, going up all at the same time, might that trigger someunnatural link warning from Google? And even with low cost labor being used, $50 simply doesn’t cover the necessary time to understand what a site is about, to research other sites and then engage in communication to obtain quality links.

Another No Hat Pitch

Here’s another, sent to me and all the Marketing Land editors through our contact form:
I thought you might like to know some of the reasons why you are not getting enough organic & social media traffic on your website.
I would like to update you that your website is still not ranked on the top pages of Google SERPs for your popular keywords (Products). Your loss is your competitor’s gain i.e. the traffic which could have generated quality sales for you goes to your competitors as they rank well in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) organically. Reasons:
  1. HTML and other on-page errors are present on your website.
  2. Low number of internal and external quality links present on your website.
  3. Duplicate or low quality contents present in your website without any regular update.
  4. Need to update fresh contents on your website and blogs as per the latest Google guideline.
  5. Broken Links and Poison words might be present in your website.
  6. Social media profile needs to be updated regularly.
Long gone are the days when Google used to give priority to websites of keyword based domains or websites with huge number of links. Now Google counts each and every detail to verify if your website is relevant to the keywords you are promoting for. A single un-wanted link or a duplicate content can lead your website to be penalized by Google.
We are a leading website promotion company providing online promotion, SMO, Reputation Management, Content (both web and promotional content) fixing services to clients.
We have a team of 240+ SEO professional working 24*7. Our team of dedicated Google Analytic and Adwords certified professionals excel in promoting and increasing the visibility of a website in various search engines (including the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates), which will directly help in increasing traffics for your website.
Unlike other SEO companies we do not believe in talking rather we believe in delivering what we promise to our clients. We provide guaranteed services or money back-guarantee to all our clients who consider working with us.
If you are getting rigid by paying a huge amount in PPC then Organic listing by using white hat technique will be definitely a right choice for you. As the rate of conversion is more in organic listing as compared to PPC, eventually it will be an absolute gain for you.
This email just tells you the fraction of things we do, our optimization process involves many other technical factors which can be sent to you on your request. If you would like to know more about our services then please write us back else you can give us a call us in our number below.
The email is crap right from the first sentence, given that the person sending this has no idea what keywords are important to our site.
The itemization of problems isn’t correct, but then again, neither is some of the grammar in the itemization. But some people might believe this, in the way they might believe someone pitching an unnecessary product to remove mold in their home or to prevent a car from developing rust.
If this company really does have a team of certified Google Analytics and Google AdWords people, I’d hope Google would pull those certifications, which mean nothing in terms of guaranteeing SEO results. It’s like saying you have a team of certified carpenters and electricians who are going to try and fix your plumbing problems.

The Terrible Public Faces Of “SEO”

Pitches like these cause some people to hate SEO simply because they’re so so damn annoying. Others end up hating SEO because they’re taken in and waste their money on something they thought was SEO but wasn’t. Either way, it’s not a pretty public face that some associate with SEO.
This leads to what I’ve called crap hat SEO. Crap hat SEO produces the second terrible public face that people see.

Crap Hat SEO

A crap hat SEO doesn’t give a damn about anything. They may be generating hundreds or thousands of pages of nonsensical copy using software, then using more software to comment spam the hell out of sites and pretty much not caring about what type of mess they leave behind, as long as they rank.
And mess it is. Publishers who own those comment spammed sites have to deal with the garbage, and they blame the damn “SEOs” for causing it. You also have some searchers who encounter junk pages that don’t really deliver what they’re looking for eventually realize there’s this “SEO thing” that screwed everything up.

The SEO Reputation Problem

I wish I had an easy solution for these things, but I don’t. What I can say is that SEO is not alone among industries where some bad actors can give the entire profession a terrible reputation.
For example, anyone who’s ever taken out a home loan knows that in the following weeks, you’ll get inundated with “official letters” of all types, stamped “time sensitive” or “important notice” and sounding authoritative by listing your loan balance or lender.
These pitches for insurance policies or refinancing offers are crap, public facing crap that give the insurance and mortgage industries a bad name.
But both industries provide necessary services, and there are good people and companies in those industries. That’s why they continue on, and it’s why SEO continues on despite every few months someone writing an article declaring that it’s going to die.

The Attack & Response Pattern

I pretty much stopped responding to those types of articles back in 2011. After I’d written things like these:
What else was there to say? And that’s just a sampling. I’d written many more articles on this topic stretching back into the late 1990s.
In the end, I decided to generally ignore articles that are often written by people who really don’t understand what SEO is about. In the past, I might have fired up a 3,000 word response to such things. Now, at best, I might leave a comment.
Someone on Forbes wants to declare SEO will be dead in two years? It’s not worth the effort. Anyone with any real knowledge of the SEO space knows that’s absurd. And anyway, it’s not a real Forbes writer. It’s just one what I call Fake Forbes writers, where that publication that had a name that once meant something now seems to let anyone write anything for page views.
Some designer wants to warn the world against why a good designer is all you need for SEO? Hey, I was heartened to see Bill Slawski and Will Critchlow step up with a response. But how many times do we have to do this? Wasn’t 2004 enoughHow about 2009? Does it have to always repeat? Why on earth doesn’t anyone gripe about how the development and design industries continue to fail to get SEO over and over again?
Well, part of it is that bad designers and bad developers aren’t crapping all over the web in ways that are easily seen and pinned to those industries. You encounter a bad web site. You blame the site, or a code error, not the people that created it, who aren’t associated with those annoying emails you get.
Part of it is also due to the fact that plenty of designers and developers do get SEO, get the need to either understand it and use best practices themselves or work with actual professional SEOs who do.

Education Does Help

And part of it is that yes, I suppose the wheel will keep having to go around and around, that education will always be needed. Personally, I’ll likely continue to ignore the flare-ups from places that don’t deserve attention. But in places where education might indeed help, maybe the good fight continues to be worth waging.
Along these lines, it would be nice if the largest industry body associated with SEO, SEMPO, actually seemed to be doing some of that outbound education when these flare-ups happen rather than individual SEOs themselves having to step forward.
Education won’t stop the crap that’s out there, of course. But maybe it will help people understand how to distinguish the crap they assume is SEO from the real SEO that is beneficial. Maybe it will help the professionals who provide quality SEO get more of the respect they deserve.
One thing I know. Bad reputation or not, SEO has continued on despite 15 years now of people declaring it will die. I fully expect it’ll keep going for another 15 years, if not many more.

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Are You Too Dependent On Google Traffic?


Google IndependenceBetween all the new Google updates such as Penguin update and the constant Panda updates. Let's not forget the EMDPage Layout and DMCA updates - many online businesses have found themselves without traffic, customers and without the ability to pay rent.
Many of these sites depended almost 95% on Google traffic to get their visitors and ultimately their customers. When Google updates their algorithms, which they do fairly often, you are at risk of losing your business.
We've, as many people, have been preaching this for years. You should not solely rely on Google traffic to fuel your business. You need other channels for visitors, customers and to make a living.
WebmasterWorld thread talks just about that.
Either find other traffic sources or customer acquisition sources or your are setting yourself up to be in big trouble. All major businesses look to diversify their businesses. You should also.
Examples include building out mobile apps, looking for social traffic and some old fashion word of mouth. Some people have day jobs and work on their web sites as secondary jobs. Some people have multiple web sites in totally different niches.
What do you do to diversify your online business income? How dependent are you on Google traffic?
Here are the traffic sources for this site:
traffic sources
I bet my Google traffic percentage would be a lot higher if I wasn't so stubborn but hey - maybe I am being proactive about diversifying my traffic? Just kidding.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Google algorithm updates affect search

Brooke Snow

As with many companies, Google likes to name its algorithm updates. This is where our friends Panda and Penguin come in. While the names insinuate something cute and cuddly, these updates are anything but. The goal of any algorithm update is to help get the end user good information that matches their needs. The main goal of Panda is to penalize sites with low quality content such as thin and duplicate content. Penguin is more focused on a site’s overall credibility and is aimed at penalizing spam sites, such as ones with unnatural inbound links. Panda and Penguin have endless versions (as of 21 November, we are at Panda update No. 22), and Google updates the algorithm 500 times to 600 times a year. You can see a list of updates by year on SEOmoz.
There are a couple key things that will help you determine if your site was hit.
1. You may have received a warning from Google Webmaster Tools (if you don’t have this set up for your hotel site, you need to). If you received the warning below, then you may have been hit by Penguin.
2. Analyze your traffic and impressions in Google Analytics as well as Google Webmaster Tools. If you see a drop on any of the major update days, you may have been hit.

Dates to look at:
  • Original Panda: 19 April 2012
  • Original Penguin: 24 April 2012
  • Panda Refresh: 27 April 2012
How to Panda and Penguin proof your site?
If your site was fortunate to not be hit by the major Google algorithm updates, then your next move should be to make sure you take extra steps to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. Below are some key things you can do to proof your site against Panda and Penguin.
Ways to protect your site against Penguin:
Remember some sites were hurt by Panda because the content on their site was too thin, which ultimately created a poor user experience that was identified through a lack of engagement and slow site load times. Here’s what you should do:
  • Ensure your site is designed for a good user experience and doesn’t inhibit engagement
  • Key metrics to look at to determine engagement:
    • Bounce rate (aim for around 30% to 40%)
    • Average time on site (aim for 3 minutes to 4 minutes on site)
    • Number of pages viewed per visit (aim for 4-plus pages)
    • Conversion rates (aim for 2% to 5%)
  • Make sure your site doesn’t load too slowly. You can get good insights into your sites current load speed as well as suggestions to increase it with Google’s page speed tool.
  • Going back to elementary school days, spelling and grammar are important. Head of Google’s Web spam team, Matt Cutts has stated that more reputable sites tend to spell better than lower quality sites.
  • Quality, quality, quality. Make sure your content is unique and worth reading.
Ways to protect your site against Penguin:
Sites were hurt by Penguin due to poor links; so were sites with too many footer links, links from unrelated sites and too many links with exact match anchor text. Here’s what you can do:
  • Remove any unrelated or links with very low quality.
  • Build links to your site that are higher quality and come from relevant sites (an example of a relevant site would be one themed around travel or hospitality).
  • Make sure you have varied anchor text for links coming to your site.
  • Use internal linking sparingly. Don’t add a link to another page on your site unless it would be helpful to the user.
  • Tool tip: Google Webmaster Tools now offers disavow links, which provides the ability to have Google count low-quality links when assessing your site. (Note: Be careful and make sure you know what you’re doing before utilizing this tool.)
What does all this mean for your website?
As Google continues to fine tune the algorithm to ensure the most relevant sites are returned for a user’s query, it will be essential to create website content that is focused on the user and not search engines.
Some key things to avoid:
  • Don’t automatically generate content. Make sure if you are creating new content, you make it as unique as possible. For example, rather than using the same basic content for new hotel packages and just changing a few words here and there, make sure you create descriptions that are as unique as the offering.
  • Avoid any tricks that are intended to improve rankings, such as keyword stuffing a page or using hidden text or links.
  • Don’t participate in any link schemes or use bulk link-building services. If you keep your site user focused and honest, you should have no problems with being penalized by any Pandas or Penguins in the future.
Brooke Snow joined the SEO world and Anvil Media, Inc. back in 2010. As a digital analyst at Anvil, Brooke is responsible for the creation and execution of various client online marketing strategies, specializing in Local SEO as well as in various industry verticals including hospitality and education. As an alum of the University of Oregon School of Journalism with a major in Advertising Brooke started her career at more traditional advertising agencies managing client work ranging from interactive web projects to print and collateral.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Pl

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The SEO Project Management Jedi Challenge: May the seoPM Force Be With You


Almost a month ago (time flies, doesn't it?) I had the opportunity to share a story at MozCon about SEO Project Management (seoPM) with guidelines to enhance the management of the SEO process and achieve more effective results. Since I know you're all quite busy and may need a reminder on the topic, I wanted to check in to see if you're really following the guidelines I shared... in a very fun way, of course. I present to you: an seoPM challenge!

Prepare yourself first with Yoda's seoPM advice from MozCon

For those who did not attend MozCon or skipped my SEO Project Management (seoPM) presentation on Friday morning (too much party the night before, perhaps?), take a look and prepare yourself for the seoPM Jedi challenge by checking out Yoda's seoPM advice:

Test your seoPM Force by taking the seoPM Jedi Challenge

Now that you've seen the seoPM guidelines shared at MozCon, our SEO stormtrooper consultant friend (who, at the end of the presentation, was already feeling the seoPM Force and knew he could be successful at it) invites us to take an seoPM Jedi Challenge to test our skills... Let's take it!

The seoPM Jedi Master Test
Do you want to save it, print it, or share it? You can download this image or a higher resolution one.

There may be additional seoPM guidelines to be followed, but these are the most important principles and tips shared during MozCon. I'll share additional seoPM guidelines in future episodes, along with challenges that you will be invited to take to keep your seoPM Jedi Master status.

My seoPM Jedi Challenge Results

As it is said in Spanish, I will preach with the example: After taking the tests the result I got is that I'm an seoPM Jedi Master.

Aleyda Solis - seoPM Jedi Master

Don't get me wrong, this result doesn't mean I haven't made seoPM mistakes. Remember that you need to answer according to you latest seoPM experience, so the status can change easily. This is intentional so that you always keep following the seoPM guidelines.

The truth is, I've experienced many different situations that I've learned from along the way. I've been doing SEO since 2007 and have had a variety of different roles since then. I've worked on the agency side as an SEO consultant and afterwards as the head of the SEO department. I've also been an In-House SEO and an external freelance SEO consultant.

As you imagine, most of the stories shared by our SEO stormtrooper consultant friend at MozCon are mine, too, in some way or another. Nonetheless, I can say that after I started following Yoda's guidelines (and that are tested in the seoPM Jedi challenge), the SEO projects I manage are more effective, my clients are happier, and, of course, I'm an even happier SEO:

Life with and without seoPM
Disclaimer: These photos were not taken exactly at the time when the described events happened... but I promise my reaction was very similar.

This doesn't mean that if you don't follow the seoPM guidelines, you won't be able to achieve sucessful seoPM projects, or if you do, your projects are going to be perfect and issue-free. However, I'm positive that if you take these guidelines, customize them to your situation, and follow them in your every day SEO work, you will achieve your results more effectively.

Now it's your turn: Share your seoPM Jedi test results and challenge an SEO friend

I hope that we all start taking these guidelines into consideration, identifying our own situations with them, and challenging ourselves and our SEO friends to follow them.

So, as I need to challenge another SEO to get this going... I want to challenge Gianluca to take the test, share his seoPM results (and experiences) with us, and then challenge another SEO (who hasn't taken the test before) to give it a try.

Here are the different seoPM challenge badges so you can publish them along your results:

I'm an seoPM Padawan BadgeI'm an seoPM Jedi knight BadgeI'm an seoPM Jedi Master Badge

Good luck with your seoPM Jedi Challenge tests. I look forward to learning about your results and stories!

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Business Focused Analytics – The Starting Point


Having been a Business Intelligence practitioner for the last 13 years, there has never been a more exciting time to practice this art, as organizations increasingly realize that a well implemented BI & Analytics system can provide great competitive advantage for them. This leads us to the question of – ‘What is a well implemented BI system?’ Let us follow the Q&A below.

Q: What is a well implemented BI system?

A: A well implemented BI system is one that is completely business focused.

Q: Well, that doesn’t make it any easier. How can we have BI that is completely business focused?

A: BI & Analytics becomes completely business focused when they have ‘business decisions’ as the cornerstone of their implementation. The starting point to build / re-engineer a BI system is to identify the business decisions taken by business stakeholders in their sphere of operations. Business decisions can be operational in nature (taken on a daily basis) and/or strategic (taken more infrequently but they tend to have a longer term impact). To reiterate, the starting point for BI is to catalog the business decisions taken by business stakeholders and collect the artifacts that are currently used to take those decisions.

Q: The starting point is fine – What are the other pieces?

A: The next step is to identify the metrics and key performance indicators that support decision making. In other words, any metric identified should be unambiguously correlated to the decision taken with the help of that metric and by whom. Next we need to identify the core datasets in the organization. Please refer to my earlier blog post titled ‘Thinking by Datasets’  on this subject.

Q: What about the operational systems in the landscape? Aren’t they important?

A: Once we have documented the relationship between Business Decisions to Metrics to Datasets, we need to focus on the transactional applications. The key focus items are:

  • Inventory of all Transactional Applications
  • Identify the business process catered by these applications
  • Identify the datasets generated as part of each of business process
  • Next step is to drill-down into individual entities that make up each of the datasets
  • Once the Facts & Dimensions are identified from the entities, sketch out the classic ‘Bus Matrix’ which would form the basis for dimensional data modeling


Q: All this is good if we are building a BI system from scratch – How about existing BI systems?

A: For existing BI applications, the above mentioned process could be carried out as a health-check on the BI landscape. The bottomline is that every single report / dashboard / any other analytical component should have traceability into the metrics shown which should then link to the decisions taken by business users. BI & Analytics exist to help organizations take better business decisions and that defines its purpose & role in an enterprise IT landscape.

The answers mentioned above provide the high-level view of Hexaware’s approach to Business Intelligence projects. We have worked with many organizations across industries and a business focused analytical approach has provided good value for our customers.

Thanks for reading. Please do share your thoughts.

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Earnings Conference Call on Tuesday, July 31st 2012 at 4.00 pm IST


The Board of Directors of Hexaware Technologies is scheduled to meet on July 31st, 2012 to consider the audited results for the quarter ended June 30th, 2012 (Q2 2012).

The company is hosting an earnings conference call for investors and analysts on the same day to discuss the results.

Details of the conference call are as follows:

DateJuly 31st, 2012
Time4:00 PM IST
Dial-in Access Numbers
MumbaiPrimary Access:+91 22 3065 0539
Secondary Access:+91 22 6629 0539
Hexaware ParticipantsAtul Nishar– Chairman
P. R. Chandrasekar
 – Vice Chairman & CEO
R. V. Ramanan
 – Executive Director & Head – Global Delivery
Prateek Aggarwal
 – Chief Financial Officer
Deependra Chumble
– Chief People Officer
Sreenivas V– Chief Strategy Officer

Replay Facility*

Playback number: +91 22 3065 1212

When prompted, please enter the Conference ID 32580 followed by #

*The replay facility of the conference call will be available 60 minutes after the call ends and for three days from July 31st to August 02nd 2012.

Participants are requested to kindly dial-in 10 minutes in advance.

Thank you!

For further information: please contact – Sreenivas V
[e-mail: sreenivasv@hexaware.com; phone: +91 99401 90091]

More: http://hexaware.com/news/earnings-conference-call-on-tuesday-july-31st-2012-at-4-00-pm-ist-2/

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Why Link Building Strategies Fail

Posted by Adria Saracino
I've executed a lot of failed link building strategies.
Some of these strategies I created. Others were handed to me. Over the years, I've discovered that the same reasons for failure kept cropping up. Thus, I thought it'd be helpful to outline the mistakes I've made and seen. Hopefully this helps you avoid the stress and headaches I've experienced along the way.
Here are the ways in which I've seen link building strategies fail and how you can make sure you don't get duped by these common pitfalls.

Link Building Strategy  Content Strategy which  Link Bait

Let me break it down...
The content strategy is the road map designed to create epic pieces of content. The link building strategy is how you plan on getting links. Sometimes you use content from your content strategy to get links, but sometimes you don't. Sometimes the content from your content strategy helps generate links all by itself, such as when people find it easily in search engines and start sharing it on their own sites. This process is not part of the link building strategy.
Producing a piece of link bait isn't a content strategy, either. Link bait is a piece of content that is created with the hopes of attracting a load of links. Link bait creators hope their content will go viral, and let me tell you, it is reallydifficult to churn out link bait after you produce a piece that goes viral. You're lucky if one goes viral, let alone multiple. Thus, link bait isn't a content strategy as it's not really sustainable.
In addition, link bait can create a bad user experience, say in the case that you are churning out infographic after infographic all hosted on your company blog. Frequent visitors to that blog might become alienated, especially in"boring" or small niches where you often need to think of tangential topics and audiences to make a successful piece of link bait.
Why should you know (and care about) the difference? Because getting link bait and content strategy confused can set your team up for failure. It often results in expectations not being met, as they will be unrealistic from the start. Plus, each of these strategies answers different questions as they are being created — such as the target market, goals, and metrics — all of which are vital to success. Miss one part and you could be missing an important piece of the big picture.

How to Win:

Create a content strategy that includes link bait (isn't all link bait) and figure out where you can leverage the content for link building. Simultaneously, create a link building strategy that drives additional links above and beyond what your content can do. For even more win, consider how you can coordinate with your social strategy to really leverage both your content and link building efforts.
The key here is collaboration and integration, which will ensure you don't miss opportunities for a win. Think you only have the resources to pursue one strategy (which I will call BS on)? I love this controversial article on content marketing being better than link building. I'm not saying I agree or disagree, I just love when authors take an aggressive stance :)

The "Strategy" Part is Left Out

Trusty old Wikipedia defines a strategy as, "A plan of action designed to achieve a vision." Unfortunately, a lot of times the planning and designing parts are left out, leaving a grandiose vision but no real road map for getting there. I see this a lot with companies who pride themselves in being agile. Sometimes they are just too agile, too shotgun and reckless, saying "let's go, go, go" and hoping to see some wins later on.

How to Win:

No brainer here: create a strategy. Know that executing one campaign after another with no connecting thread is not a strategy. Here are the top-level pieces both a winning content and link building strategy should have.
  • What - What is the purpose? What are the goals?
  • Who - This is two part, 1) Who will be accountable for the project? 2) Who is the target audience?
  • How - Again two part, 1) How will you reach this goal(s)? 2) How will you track it?
  • Why - Why is this piece of the strategy being pursued? This should be answered from both the business anduser perspective.
  • When - When will this be executed? Create timelines and deadlines to execute each piece of the strategy.
  • Where - Where does this fit in? Knowing how it integrates with other efforts and where it fits into the grand scheme of things is essential.
Rather than re-invent the wheel, here are some useful resources for how to create link building and content strategies:

No Defined Goals

Part of a strategy is having a vision, but to achieve that vision you need to set goals. Typically, the best strategies have a number of goals, broken into both short term and long term. Some will argue that "ranking #1 for [insert highly competitive short tail keyword here]" is a goal, but since it is pretty lofty you need to ask yourself what short term goals can your team action in order to be number one.

How to Win:

Set up both long-term and short-term goals. Generally, the short-term goals will be stepping stones for reaching long-term goals, creating a tree of goals with actionable milestones. I found an acronym from a UK government agency that I thought was wonderful. It says that all goals are SMART:
characteristics of SMART goals

No Urgency or Tracking in Place

In my experience, in-house link building teams tend to fall victim to this more often than agencies. Just as a link building strategy should have goals, there should be some urgency in reaching them. This is where tracking comes into play. I see a lack of urgency is often correlated with not having a system in place for inspiring that urgency. To be clear, what I mean when I say "urgency" is a timeline for reaching goals - essentially deadlines.
Every link builder is going to find a way to track how many links he/she is getting. It's human nature - we're out trying to get something and we want to see if we won or not. While I still find that the market struggles with developing a completely automated and instant way of tracking incoming links, there are manual processes that can aid in tracking how many links are received. However, this isn't the only tracking that's important.
Knowing the number of links is great, but what are those links doing for rankings? How have those incoming links fluctuated over the duration of the project? What does the anchor text spread look like? These are bigger picture questions that some teams fail to answer in tracking. It makes it very difficult to measure the effectiveness and ROI of your link building team if you aren't looking at tracking data over time. And what is more important is making sure you share these results with everyone on the team. The first set of people who should know the results should be the ones doing the work. Too often the link builders are left out of the loop and given indirect feedback like "we need to get more links."

How to Win:

Here is a top-level road map for implementing tracking procedures:
  • After defining the goals, determine KPIs for measuring if those goals have been reached.
  • Create a system for monitoring these KPIs, such as through Analytics or third-party tracking tools.
  • Regularly analyze the data. Aggregate it into digestible visualizations to help make sense of it all.
  • Draw conclusions.
  • Share these conclusions with the whole team.
  • As more data is collected, compare new data with historical results. Be sure to share these with the team as well.
  • Reassess strategy and determine where changes need to be made if applicable.

Expectations Aren't Managed

managing expectations comic Dilbert
Everyone is going to have his/her own opinion, from the bosses to the link builders themselves. Those who own the project need to set a realistic bar and constantly communicate what everyone can expect. Keep in mind that some people won't be as forthcoming with their expectations, so the key is to ask, and preferably have their expectations documented somewhere for reference to hold everyone accountable.

How to Win:

It's safe to set the bar low so you can exceed expectations, but the key in that is just generally setting the bar. If you want to go even further, epmphasize constant and clear communication. A good workflow includes:
  1. Learning what is expected from each party.
  2. Negotiating those expectations.
  3. Consistently reporting on where your team is at in meeting those expectations.
  4. Reporting on the final results - were those expectations met or exceeded?

Resources Spread too Thin

I see this all the time. Let's put it in perspective with a hypothetical story.
The boss decides the company should try it's hand at some link building, so he designates one person to give it a go. Let's say it's Susy the copy writer. Off the cuff, the boss decides he wants Susy to start getting 30-50 links a week, and of course to complete all the other copy writing tasks required of her. With a pat on the back he tells new link builder Susy good luck.
It's not difficult to guess that Susy the link builder comes back with less than stellar results. Not only is the boss disappointed, but he also decides link building isn't good for the company. Susy is left feeling like she failed, disappointed in herself, and aggravated at her boss.
Link building isn't a get rich quick scheme..or at least it shouldn't be viewed as one.

How to Win:

Devote ample resources to your link building project. This can be easier said than done, especially when you operate a small business. A good start is to hire one person whose sole job function is link building. Susy the copy writer shouldn't also be dabbling in link building as nobody simply dabbles in link building.
Make sure to monitor everything he/she does in order to make a case study for obtaining more people and resources for link building. Especially when just starting out, companies can see a lot of big wins so make sure to track before and after progress to prove your case.
Depending on which strategy(ies) you pursue, the ideal team consists of:
  • Link builder(s) - Remember, results are determined by time x cost = # of wins. For more wins, you need to amp up the variables.
  • Content person(s) - A lot of link building strategies require content, so a strong team of writers and editors can help scale link building.
  • Creative person(s) - Designers and developers can really help amp up the content you produce.
  • Researcher(s) - Having someone who is an expert in data can make sure your resources are credible and your content is solid.
  • PR person(s) - This person has his/her finger on the pulse of media, knowing what is trending and what journalists are interested in.
  • Project manager - Sometimes this role isn't as explicit as this title suggests, but someone in charge of tracking and keeping an eye on the big picture can give your link builders more time to execute, rather than get caught up in monitoring.
  • Social media person(s) - Not essential, but it's great to have a dedicated person to leverage the link building opportunities social media presents.

Content is Consistently Crappy

This feels like it should be a no-brainer, but plenty of companies fail to make epic content. Sometimes this caused by looking for quick wins, resulting in not enough effort or resources devoted to content creation. However, a more common reason is not due to lack of experience, but falls on the fact that people just don't know. People tend to fall in love with their own ideas (often which are too promotional) and have trouble seeing whether or not the idea will really speak to anyone.

How to Win:

First, know that the content creation process is not a sweatshop. Content should be made with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. A case study from Salon.com illustrates this concept well. Essentially, the webiste was able to increase traffic to the site by 40% by creating 33% less content. This supports the idea that content isn't a numbers game; it's a quality game.
Second, your content strategy should define accountabilities and create a workflow that implements a checks and balances system to ensure that you are creating epic content. If your content strategy is lacking, make sure you really understand how people are using the Internet and get the link builders involved with brainstorming, even if it's just to ask them. If you have minimal content building experience, it's important to have the people in the trenches involved in the discussion.
To make content creation even easier, I've created this checklist for what I believe all epic content should have. If you can't say "yes" or provide a compelling answer for each, you might need to go back to the drawing board. Print it out and put it next to your desk right now (high res version available up request). 
good content creation check list

Link Building Isn't Integrated with Other Marketing Channels

This section might be a bit misleading as link building can still be successful without being integrated into other channels. However, a lack of integration can be a serious glass roof on the ladder to link building awesomeness. There is only so much traditional link building can do. Big wins often encompass other divisions, such as PR, social media, the product team, and more. This is acknowledged well in Jon's link building strategy list - in the top filter notice the checkboxes under "Dependencies on Other Resources." The bigger your ideas, more departments will need to be involved. Without a seamless plan for integration and collaboration, working together is going to be one big mess (if it's even possible at all).
Besides being able to work harmoniously, another big reason you want integration is because you can capitalize on what everybody else is doing and make sure you capture all the wins possible from a particular campaign. A lot of the initiatives your PR team is running can be easily tweaked to fit into the SEO team's agenda as well. It's called "looking for low-hanging fruit", and it is impossible to implement this idea if you don't know what the other teams are doing.

How to Win:

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Especially at first, you are going to have to stay relevant by constantly communicating with the different marketing teams. I've found that taking the initiative and including these teams' interests in your link building initiatives shows them a clear example of how you can work together.
For example, if you are running contests with bloggers, looking out for the social media team's interests can help you make a case for why your teams should work together. It's the "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" philosophy, and you are initiating the "scratching". By laying out a work flow through example, you will inspire these teams to get you involved with their projects.
To do this, include them in every step from inception to execution and make it clear how you are addressing their goals. Ask questions and ask for input. Consider it internal egobait. Pretty soon, you'll have an open line of communication and your requests for regular cross-team meetings will be taken seriously. Before you know it, you will all be in the loop of what other teams are doing and collaborating on your different project calendars. Tread lightly so as not to step on any toes, and encourage hosting these calendars on a collaborative platform, such as a simple Google Doc. In the end, communication turns into collaboration, and that is where you will gain the most wins from your marketing efforts.

Link Building Team Members are Siloed

Just as marketing channels can be siloed, so can the different teams involved with link building. I mentioned above the different concentrations that should be represented in a complete link building team. Smaller teams tend to have no trouble including everyone in the strategy, as they all typically sit in the same room. But what if you have a large team? Maybe with offices in different locations?
It's easy to leave people out of the link building funnel; people figure the process will ship quicker if there are less chefs in the kitchen. However, this is the easiest way for a link building campaign to fail. Not every person on your team can be an expert in everything, so drawing from the experience and know-how that all team members have to offer will help you succeed.

How to Win:

Know each person(s) or teams core competencies. By knowing what each person/team can bring to the table, you'll be able to figure out where they fit into a particular link building campaign. The skills that each team member can bring to the table include:
  • Link builder - This person spends all day trolling the Internet and trying to promote content, dealing with rejections, and taking part in observational learning along the way. He/she can tell you if the idea is promotable, as well as insights into how to reach different target niches.
  • Content person - This person spends all day writing. He/she will know how to use the written word torepresent the data on your infographic in a comprehensible way, while capturing your brand's voice and style to ensure consistency.
  • Creative person - This person knows how to represent complex data in a beautiful, visual way. He/she will be able to tell you possible roadblocks of the infographic idea from a design perspective, or suggest better ways to represent the information.
  • Researcher - This person crunches data all day. He/she will be able to collect credible sources for your piece, ensuring that the information is statistically sound and that your link builders don't get eaten alive by critics.
  • PR person - This person speaks to the media all day. He/she knows what journalists look for and will be able to tell you if your piece will be promotable to high-value publications.
  • Project manager - This person is the glue that holds the process together. He/she should be responsible for making sure the teams communicate and collaborate.
  • Social media person - This person knows what is trending in the social sphere. He/she can help promote the piece and tell you if the idea will be shared. He/she can help push your piece viral.
Without the help from all of these people, you are much more likely to create a piece that:
  • Doesn't target a specific audience.
  • Targets an audience that is difficult to infiltrate.
  • Targets an audience that is too small, making the likelihood of success small.
  • Isn't statistically sound, making it likely that it will be ripped apart during outreach.
  • Is visually limited because your design team was incapable of executing the grand vision.
  • Doesn't take off in the social space.
Ensure your teams work collaboratively and communicate to create an inherent checks and balances system for creating winning link building campaigns.

Relationships are Left Out

I'm a big proponent of link building being renamed relationship building. The lines between traditional PR and link building are being blurred, and to get a link you need to bring it back to basics: networking. People do things for people they know. Bloggers and journalists get solicited to build links all the time, and you need to make sure you are among the people they come to know if you want that link.
The "relationship" part is left out because link builders are constantly pressured by numbers. Those who aren't in the trenches don't understand how much goes into link building. I would argue that with some link building campaigns, the back and forth with a prospect takes up to 75% of the time. That number is often lost when looking at metrics like number of hours worked versus number of successful link placements.

How to Win:

First, educate your team and manage expectations. If you are the boss, understand that link building should take time. iAcquire wrote an article on the effort required to build links and I don't think it's far off.
As far as measurement, make sure that the time spent negotiating is taken into account. If you have a large team and sense a problem among your link builders of not knowing when to let go (which I think is a big beginner pitfall), sit down with them and role play. Have them fill out a time log to capture back and forth if you have to. Host a link building hack day and get in the trenches to see for yourself just how much back and forth you'll do. No matter the method, make sure that this is taken into account and encourage relationship building. It's what makes link building scalable — as you can go back to the same people and be introduced to new contacts — so don't give up. Pretty soon they'll get to a place where they can manage a relationship quicker and more efficiently.

Everyone Forgets the End Goal

Disclaimer: this is a #tellmehowyoureallyfeel moment and is my #1 gripe with link building. I think the term has been bastardized - it is so overused that people forget where it came from in the first place. It's not about the number of links. Link building was a means created to increase conversions. Conversions should be what you care about. Not the number of links. Not even how well your SERP positioning improves. If you are increasing the number of links, improving your SERP positioning, and seeing more traffic, absolutely NONE of this matters if that traffic isn't converting.
Because of this misconception, I think a lot of SEOs will say a big part of their job is educating their clients/bosses. It's quite easy to get caught up in the minutiae; counting the number of links and watching rank changes are easy to hold onto because they are the easiest to see. These are great short-term goals, but they are not the end goal.
My co-worker Carson Ward said this well:
carson ward pullquote on link building

How to Win:

Constantly remind yourself/your team of the end goal. Do this by measuring changes in conversions that are a result of the smaller wins. Especially while educating your clients/bosses, if they aren't constantly reminded of conversions, they will easily forget. This is where defining goals and managing expectations are super important.
Second, remember that link building — and SEO as a whole — is only part of the inbound marketing puzzle. The only reason people have an online business is to capture new customers on the web. SEO is only one way to do this, and link building is only one way SEO makes this happen. Know the big picture and understand how your efforts contribute to the grand vision.

In Summary: Checklist for a Winning Link Building Strategy

  Create separate (and seamless) link building and content strategies. Sprinkle in link bait.
  Don't forget the "strategy" part - you need a road map to be able to take the journey.
  Define both short and long-term goals.
  Implement long-term tracking metrics and processes.
  Work with urgency to reach those metrics.
  Manage everyone's expectations. Communicate frequently and document.
  Devote the appropriate amount of resources to execute the strategy.
  Create epic content.
  Ideally, integrate your link building strategy with other marketing channels.
  Don't silo your team members. Make sure they work collaboratively.
  Remember winning link building = relationship building. Don't forget this takes time.
  Don't forget the end goal of all link building: Increasing conversions, not # of links.

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