Search Traffic Declining? You’re Not Alone (and What to Do About It)

If your website traffic from organic search has fallen over the past year, take some small solace in knowing you’re not alone—in fact, you’re in good (if not happy) company.

Lost Search Trafifc

Image credit: Young Digital Lab

According to research from BuzzFeed, “Search traffic to publishers has taken a dive in the last eight months, with traffic from Google dropping more than 30%…While Google makes up the bulk of search traffic to publishers, traffic from all search engines has dropped by 20% in the same period.” Organic search visits have fallen significantly to A-list publishers like Time, Sports Illustrated, Us Weekly and Rolling Stone.

It’s not quite clear why this is happening. BuzzFeed mentions changes in behavior, greater use of social networks for content discovery, and a 52% increase in traffic from “‘Dark social,’ that netherland of direct traffic” (i.e., unknown sources), and concludes “We can draw a lot of assumptions but few conclusions from the drop in search traffic.”

The Tutorspree blog offers another possible answer: Google is intentionally de-emphasizing organic results (free clicks) in favor of search advertising results (for which it gets paid). While there’s no before and after (which would have been very helpful) and results will vary, obviously, based on the nature of the search, this example shows how organic results can comprise only a quarter or less of total screen real estate on a commercial search, with paid results accounting 60% of the visible display,  and other results like maps or images taking up the remaining screen area.

And it’s not only Google. Both Google and Bing are now displaying fewer than ten organic search results on certain queries: eight, seven, even as few as four in some cases. That means organic results which used to appear in the middle or lower half of page one in search results are now banished to page two, significantly reducing the likelihood of attracting the click.

Finally, algorithmic changes implemented by Google (and subsequently mimicked by other search engines) over the past 18 months have impacted traffic to b2c and b2b websites. Much has been written about how Panda and Penguin may negatively impact rankings of commercial websites in search results.

Given that b2b websites attract, on average, more than 40% of all traffic from organic search (and close to 90% of that from Google), the results above are clearly of great concern. But what does it mean?

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” What’s happening today,  however,  is that many b2b vendors, news publishers and other commercial website owners are doing the same things in the same way and actually getting different (worse) results—because the environment has changed.

So in order to maintain and grow website traffic, online marketing practices have to change as well. Companies need to take a broader view of their overall online visibility and embrace a web presence optimization (WPO) approach.

Why the WPO Model  is Important

With potentially less future traffic available from search, given changes in both technology and user behavior, the WPO model is valuable because:

  • • WPO is about total online visibility—not just search. Yes, SEO (which increases website visibility) is a key component of WPO, but it’s only one component. WPO is about creating valuable, highly relevant content and then leveraging across multiple channels. So if your prospective buyers are relying less on search but more on social media, or established industry news sources, or on expert “influencers,” or even on advertising, WPO is about making sure your brand is visible in all of those places.
  • • WPO is about helping, not manipulating. Google wants (or at least claims to want) to provide searchers with the most relevant results for their queries. Searchers want to find the most relevant results. The WPO model is about creating the most relevant results for buyers looking for what you are offering, but also about being linked from, quoted in, recommended by, or sponsoring other relevant results.
  • • WPO is Google-proof. Because it’s designed to help and not manipulate, the concepts of WPO should (theoretically at least) never run counter to Google algorithm changes. And if your prospective buyers are using Google less, WPO maximizes your brand’s visibility in whatever channels, media or sources they are using in its place.

Web Presence Optimization Model

How to Get Your Traffic Back

Here are a few concrete steps for using WPO principles to adapt to and counteract declining search traffic.

  • • Figure out where your prospective buys are looking, and be there. Use social media and news monitoring tools to identify the online venues where your prospective buyers are hanging out, discussing your company, your industry, and your competitors.For many b2b companies, LinkedIn Groups are a rich environment for discovering and participating in these conversations. If your buyers are highly technical however,  they may be more likely to hang at sites like Stack Overflow, CodeGuru or Spiceworks.
  • • Experiment. Go beyond the “big three” social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and check out avenues for sharing like exploreB2B, Quora, Scoop.It, and for blogs specifically, Triberr.
  • • In terms of generating “social shares,” either correlation doesn’t equal causation or Matt Cutts is being…at best misleading, at worst duplicitous. While social signals are a factor in search rankings, it’s much less clear how important they are.But in the end, it doesn’t matter—garnering social shares is valuable for web traffic and credibility-building regardless. What matters is knowing how to drive more traffic to your content from social networks and how to drive direct and search visits through social media optimization.
  • • Use news releases for exposure, not backlinks. Until fairly recently, common SEO guidance was to “Create backlinks from (press releases) to…supporting pages on your website. Make sure the anchor text of the hyperlink is the keyword phrase you are optimizing for.” But Google now frowns on anchor text links in news releases.That doesn’t mean that news releases now have no value in driving site traffic, but it does change the strategy.First, make sure your news releases are truly newswortthy, and worth sharing. Second, optimize news releases themselves for search. Third, use news releases as part of an overall strategy to build and develop relationships with journalists, which over time can lead to citations and even backlinks which actually are valuable for driving direct and search visits to your website.
  • • Use directories based on their relevance and value, but as with news releases—not just for backlinks. In early 2013, Google devalued general directory links for search rankings. That is, the old SEO strategy of improving search ranking simply by building or buying lots of links from broad-topic web directories is no longer effective. That does not mean,  however, that all directories are worthless.
  • • It’s still worthwhile to seek out backlinks from quality, human-edited, industry-specific online directories, such as vendor directories published by trade publications and industry associations. The two key questions to ask are 1) would your prospective buyers actually be likely to find my site and visit it from this directory? And 2), do you feel good about your company being listed in this directory (or does it feel a bit sleazy to be listed alongside online casinos, web pharmacies, miracle weight loss, make-big-money-now schemes and the like)?
  • • Use guest blog posts for exposure (and if you get a backlink–that’s a bonus). Guest-posting is still a viable SEO practice,  for the moment at least. But it is commonly abused through poor approaches. Best practice is to develop a relationship with the blogger before asking for the guest post opportunity; asking for the opportunity with a personal note; understanding their audience and proposing a topic that is suitable; and not requesting (or worse, requiring) any specific quid pro quo.
  • • Finally, don’t over-rely on paid advertising but do make it part of your online marketing mix. Experiment with AdWords, social network advertising, Bizo, and other ad networks. Many offer pay-per-click or even pay-per-conversion options, so costs and results are controllable. While paid advertising has no effect on SEO, it does increase your brand’s online exposure and drives traffic to specific landing pages and offers.

In the end, no one knows whether the broad drop in search traffic is a temporary aberration or a long-term trend. But utilizing WPO tactics to broaden your brand’s online exposure and potential sources of web traffic is a winning strategy either way.

 

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Link Building: Four Types of Backlinks to Pursue (And Three to Avoid)

Editor’s note: a version of this post originally appeared on ChamberofCommerce.com

Given that more than 90% of both business-to-business and local consumer purchases now begin with online search, search engine optimization (SEO) has become essential for business success. Little wonder then that two-thirds of small to midsized-business owners plan to increase SEO efforts this year.

Link Building for SEOWhile specific best practices for SEO have evolved over time, the two core attributes for high rankings have remained constant: relevance and authority. Relevance is determined by the subject matter of a website and on-page optimization techniques (e.g., using keywords in headlines, meta titles and image names), while authority is primarily based on the quantity and quality of incoming links to a website.

So, once you’ve developed useful and compelling content, incorporating the words and phrases your customers are likely to use when searching, how can you attract links to your site? Here are four helpful sources to go after, and three others to stay away from.

Four Worthwhile Link Sources

  1. Local directories and high-quality industry directories. Virtually all businesses can benefit from providing their company and contact details to the local versions of Google, Bing and Yahoo!, as well as online yellow pages and other similar directories. GetListed.org, a site that evaluates your business presence and directly connects to more than a dozen such directories, is a great place to start.

    Industry-specific directories, often published by trade associations and publishers, are another important link source. You can often find the most authoritative (in the eyes of the search engines) directories specific to your type of business simply by searching for them. For example, if you own a restaurant in Minneapolis, a Google search for “lists of restaurants in Minneapolis” returns more than two dozen lists just in the first three pages of results—some general and some specific to certain neighborhoods, categories and price ranges.

  1. Business partners. While linking to irrelevant sites purely for SEO purposes is not advised (see “Reciprocal link schemes” below), trading links with business partners and complementary firms is helpful both to visitors and your rankings.For example, a manufacturer may trade links with retailers that sell its products, service providers that install or fix those products, and even suppliers of key components. As long as the links are topically relevant and connect high-quality sites, those links have SEO value.
  1. News and media coverage. Links from industry news sources are among the most valuable for building authority. You don’t have to get links from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal (though if you can, obviously, that would be very cool) in order to improve your search rankings; links from relevant trade journals and local media can also have significant value.One method for obtaining links is to create search-optimized news releases and distribute them through an online service like PRWeb. Another is to work with journalists directly, or hire an agency to help you. Announce a new product, get your executives or other subject matter experts quoted, help out a local charity, speak at an industry event—all are great sources of potential media coverage and links.
  1. Social media. Create business accounts and actively participate on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. If you’ve got a highly visual product, use Flickr and Pinterest; if you can make video part of the mix, set up a company channel on YouTube and Vimeo.

As the search engines make social signals an increasingly important element in rankings, the links that you create—and that your customers, followers and industry influencers share on your behalf—take on greater importance for SEO.

Three Links Sources to Avoid

  1. Reciprocal link schemes. Unlike legitimate link-trading (see above), link schemes are manipulative practices designed to “trick” search engines into giving your site a higher ranking. Such links have little or no value to your site visitors.These links are generally to sites that are completely unrelated to your business and often to somewhat sketchy destinations (e.g., online casinos, “miracle” weight loss products, get-rich-quick schemes or questionable web pharmacies).Such schemes are still around because, as with other manipulative practices, they actually worked at one time. But with recent changes made by the search engines, particularly Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, such tactics are now far more likely to hurt rather than help—and may even get your site banned from search results.
  1. Purchased links. If you come across online advertisements touting “1,000 Backlinks for $14.00” or some similar offering, run—don’t walk—away. Buying links is not only no longer an effective strategy, it is highly likely to get your site penalized. These links are very often low-quality, containing hundreds or thousands of unrelated and often low-quality outbound links, making them easy for search engines to spot.
  1. Low-quality general directories and “bad neighborhoods.” As noted above, directory links can be helpful for SEO. But not all directories are created equal. Search engines will confer authority on your site for links from high-quality directories, but frown on links from low-quality sources.Since “quality” is a subjective term, before pursuing a link from any site, ask yourself: how likely is it that your actual customers or sales prospects would ever visit this site and find you there? What other types of businesses are listed? Would you be proud to be listed there or a bit ambivalent about it? Does the site offer value to visitors, or is it essentially just a large collection of unrelated links?

In short, search engines want to direct searchers to the most relevant and useful results for any search query. Seeking out legitimate link sources to help guide search engines to your site is perfectly acceptable, and helpful to your search rankings. But avoid any sort of manipulative linking practices designed to deceive. The old Chiffon margarine commercial said “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” It isn’t nice to try to fool Google, Yahoo!, Ask, AOL or Bing either.

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Where Google Moved Your Digital Cheese

Anyone who’s been in the corporate world within the past decade-and-a-half has likely been exposed at some point to Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, a slender allegory by Spencer Johnson about dealing with change, summarized by Wikipedia as a tale featuring:

Who-Moved-My-Cheese“Four characters: two mice, ‘Sniff’ and ‘Scurry,’ and two littlepeople, miniature humans in essence, ‘Hem’ and ‘Haw.’ They live in a maze, a representation of one’s environment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans, paired off and traveled the lengthy corridors searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor at ‘Cheese Station C.’ Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese, slowly becoming arrogant in the process.”

When the cheese eventually runs out, the mice and the miniature human characters deal with their new cheese-less situation in different ways. The mice, “Noticing the cheese supply dwindling… have mentally prepared beforehand for the arduous but inevitable task of finding more cheese.” The humans struggle more with their reality: “Angered and annoyed, Hem demands, ‘Who moved my cheese?’…Starting to realize the situation at hand, Haw thinks of a search for new cheese. But Hem is dead set in his victimized mindset and dismisses the proposal.” The point of the tale is to promote productive approaches to dealing with change.

With its Panda and Penguin algorithm updates over the past couple of years, and most notably the recent Penguin 2.0 update, Google has been busy moving the cheese for many marketers, webmasters and SEO professionals.

SEO practitioners who cling to outmoded tactics like keyword stuffing and link buying are likely to react like Hem, feeling victimized by their loss of cheese. Same goes for those SEO software and service providers still tout their ability to help create thousands of links through link exchange partners.

On the other hand, SEO pros who’ve always practiced white hat tactics are like the mice in the story; though they may still have a lot of work to do, they are well prepared to find new cheese. For the many who have seen their rankings and traffic devoured by Penguin, here are three places to look for new cheese.

Content marketing. This is where Matt Cutts officially says you should look for new SEO cheese. Produce great content, it will attract “natural” links, and your site will end up on page one of Google. The problem, of course, is that in highly competitive search term markets—like marketing automation, real estate, auto repair, social media monitoring, or SEO services—no matter how compelling or unique your content is, it’s unlikely to be seen (and therefore to attract links) if it doesn’t rank on page one of Google, and it’s unlikely to rank highly if it doesn’t have a lot of relevant, high-quality inbound links. Call this Catch-22 cheese.

The point isn’t that producing helpful content isn’t a fantastic idea, only that content marketing is not enough. In this way, Penguin seems to favor the same publications, A-list blogs, and name-brand websites that already dominate most searches.

AdWords. This is where Google would really like you to go, because it’s how the company makes money. There’s no question AdWords can be an effective component of online strategy—it’s controllable, immediate and finely measurable. But it’s also expensive. Call this gourmet cheese.

Web presence optimization. A web presence optimization (WPO) approach may be the most effective way to tame Penguin and Panda. By incorporating owned, earned and paid media, WPO optimizes your overall web presence, not just your website (though that remains the ultimate target destination). Cross-channel marketing metrics in WPO help to optimally allocate marketing and PR resources.

This is akin to the way grocery stores usually sell cheese: standard cheese varieties in the dairy aisle, exotic cheeses in the deli, organic cheese in the all-natural foods section, etc. Call this a distributed cheese strategy. Grocers do it because they sell more cheese by offering different varieties in multiple locations throughout the store than they would by stacking all of it in one area. The same approach can be effective in optimizing your company’s overall web visibility, regardless of Google’s ongoing algorithmic attacks on traditional SEO.

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23 Expert SEO Link Building Guides and Tools

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which would be an awkward and uncomfortable place from which to do search engine optimization work),  you’re probably aware that the two most important things to know about link building in the post-Panda world are that 1) backlinks are still very important for ranking, and 2) traditional link-building methods (or at least many of them) are no longer effective. In its efforts to combat webspam, Google now ignores or even penalizes “unnatural” link profiles.

So what types of links should you avoid? What kinds of links are still (or now) the most valuable? How can you get more high-quality links? What tools are most helpful in link building efforts?

Find the answers to those questions and more here in almost two dozen of the best link-building guides and tool reviews of the past year.

Link Building Guides, Techniques and Tips

Six Degrees Of SEO Bacon & B2B Link Building Q&A by Search Engine Land

Debra MastalerDebra Mastaler answers seminar questions posed to her and Scott Fasser of Optify on b2b link building tactics, such as “Q: Is submitting press releases as a method for link building efficient? A: Press releases, if submitted properly, are an effective way to build short term links and to syndicate news and content…Having a plan for syndicating on a regular basis – no less than monthly is the best strategy. Optimizing the release for the focus keywords and submitted with the right service is a good strategy – especially when combined with an on-going PR effort to build excitement for news and participate in reviews, stories and roundups.”

Link Building From Scratch by Search Engine Watch

Julie JoyceJulie Joyce details 16 different kinds of links along with the pros and cons of pursuing each, ranging from the easy-to-get-but-not-worth-much (e.g., directory links) to the challenging-but-valuable (infographics and widget links).

10 Extraordinary Examples of Effective Link Bait by SEOmoz

Jon CooperObserving that “Despite what most SEOs will tell you, it’s not easy to create outstanding content that people will want to link to,” Jon Cooper provides “10 fantastic examples of link bait and what makes them so spectacular,” such as Thomson’s Evolution of Music, “a visualization of how music has traveled over the past 200 years…Why was it successful?…The two main reasons it was successful are the quality of the visualization and the social share buttons on the page. Making it easy to share gets the page in front of more eyes, and more eyes means more links.” Jon didn’t say these examples were easy, just extraordinary.

The End of Link Building as We’ve Known and Loved it by Search Engine Watch

Eric EngeFrequent best-of honoree Eric Enge notes that traditional link-building methods (even white-hat tactics) simply don’t work as well as they used to in the old world of search engine algorithms, and offers eight recommendations for tactics to create a valuable groundswell of spontaneous links, among them blogging, engaging in social media, writing news releases, advertising on targeted sites…in short, using a web presence optimization framework approach.

The 10 Golden Rules to Attracting Authority Links by SEOmoz

Neil PatelNoting that authoritative links still play a highly significant role in ranking, the brilliant Neil Patel supplies 10 rules for attracting such links, such as writing content that attracts editorial links; creating a desirable (and original) image library; writing columns or guest posts; and knowing what kinds of sites to avoid for link building.

13 Unconventional Link Building Strategies by Search Engine Journal

Sujan PatelNeed more than 10 rules? Here, Sujan Patel (Neil’s cousin) lists 13 more tips (with surprisingly little overlap to Neil’s list) including asking your local library to link to you as a reference; setting up speaking gigs; and interviewing experts in your field.

How to Avoid an Unnatural Links Penalty by AboutUs

Kristina WeisKristina Weis explains plainly and concisely how Google evaluates “unnatural” links, the specific types of links to avoid (paid, sitewide, blog networks), and some common backlink-checking tools (another is Backlink Watch).

How to Check Which Links Can Harm Your Site’s Rankings by SEOmoz

Modesto SiotosNoting that Google’s efforts to deindex “overoptimized” websites are likely to penalize many legitimate sites as well as spammy site, Modesto Siotos provides detailed instructions for a more technical audience on how to check your “backlink risk,” the tools required, and remedial actions to take if it appears your site could be at risk of a Google penalty.

Preparing for Link Armageddon by Search Engine Journal

Jeff BedfordJeff Bedford laments Google’s decision to deindex several major blog networks, which particularly impacted blogs that relied heavily on syndication networks for inbound links. He then outlines several tactics for replacing those links, from tradition PR to social relationship building, forums and guest blogging.

Linking Strategies: The Complete Guide by Coconut Headphones
***** 5 STARS

Ted IvesTed Ives offers an outstanding guide to link building, with tactics organized into five main categories: Highly Effective (e.g., produce great content, optimize news releases, ask partners for links); Worth Considering (coupons, commenting); Hard to Get Right; Wildcard Approaches (such as infographics); and Black Hat (best to avoid).

The Noob Guide to Link Building by SEOmoz
***** 5 STARS

Michael KingOnce you’ve absorbed Ted’s post above, Michael King serves up another long, detailed, and excellent (though also misnamed; true noobs will be lost, and this post has value for SEOs well beyond the noob stage) six-month link building plan, starting with quick hits like social profiles and select directories and moving along through ego bait, guest posts and event publicity.

8 Link Building Tips – Whiteboard Friday by SEOmoz

Paddy MooganPaddy Moogan presents eight link-building tips in eight minutes. My favorite: “Go to Meetup.com and search for the word ‘blogger’ and refine the results by your area, and you’ll find local bloggers meeting up in the same place. So you may find music bloggers, design bloggers, fashion bloggers. Instead of emailing all of those people, just go to the event. Go and meet them, say hello, buy them a drink, go and have dinner. It’s a much better way of building a relationship than just firing (out) a bunch of emails.”

Quality Links & Quality Content: Linchpins of Your SEO Strategy by Search Engine Watch

Christian ArnoChristian Arno discusses what constitutes a “quality link” (site relevance and trust) and how to go about getting more of them (PR, guest posts, social media, and other web presence optimization tactics), as well as consistently producing quality, link-worthy content.

Link Building Strategies That Will Work in 2013 by PPC for Hire

Jon ClarkJon Clark outlines half a dozen “Penguin-safe” link-building strategies, such as making the most of internal site links, posting on industry-specific forums, and linking out: “Whenever you come across a blog or site relevant to your niche, participate in the conversation with the author and other readers via comments. Leave fresh, useful and informative comments and create a backlink to your website.”

The Death of Link Building and the Rebirth of Link Earning – Whiteboard Friday by SEOmoz

Rand FishkinRand Fishkin pontificates on “the egress of old link building practices and the ingress of new (old) link earning strategies that will help your site stay relevant in the SERPs and drive your traffic with a better user experience,” concluding that while certain “old school” link-building tactics may still have some value, content marketing will be the most important practice going forward.

SEO Link Building Q&A with an Ex-Google Webspam Team Member by Search Engine Journal

Jason DeMersJason DeMers interviews Andre Weyher, a former member of the webspam team at Google, about backlinking do’s and don’ts. Among the answers: on how Penguin determines which domains to penalize, “The most obvious element that it focuses on is ranking due to a large amount of bad quality backlinks but it also takes into account spammy on-page techniques like keyword stuffing and over-optimization of tags and internal links;” on how identifies bad neighborhoods, “Search engines rely on website fingerprinting to identify clusters of ownership. If a particular website is relying on techniques that are not abiding the guidelines, it’s likely that the other sites owned by the same person are doing the same;” and regarding misconceptions about bad links, “Some of the biggest misconceptions that I have seen out there include ‘directories are altogether bad’ or ‘anything that is below a certain PR is considered spammy by Google.’”

131 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies by Search Engine Watch

Julie Joyce (again) compiles a huge list of link-building tactics and tips, divided into categories including basic techniques, content-based tactics, b2b-specific tips, pointers for guest posting, and practices to avoid (such as spammy links or those unlikely to drive any traffic).

Backlink Tools

How to Get Rid of Unwanted Backlinks by Search Engine Watch

Jennifer Van IderstyneNoting that, due to Google’s Penguin update, “for many websites (and a lot of business models that involve selling 50,000 links for $10) the sky is falling. Websites that have built an unnatural looking backlink profile using a strategy of aggressive exact match anchor text usage are setting off Google’s spam alarm,” Jennifer Van Iderstyne explains how to identify and rid yourself of “bad” backlinks, and lists some of her favorite backlink research tools.

17 Tools to Analyze Your Links by Practical eCommerce

Sig UelandSig Ueland reviews 17 tools for analyzing a site’s backlink profile, ranging from “dedicated link identifiers, full search-engine-optimization suites, and link tools for search engines,”, free and paid. The list includes both popular tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer as well as lesser-known alternatives like Ahrefs.

Five Killer Link-building Tools by SitePoint

Writing that “As far as link-building tools go, there are two main sorts: those that help with the data and analysis side of things, and those that focus more on speeding up the process of building relationships with other site owners” but “knowing which tools to pick from the wide variety available can be tricky,” Christina Fusano recommends a handful of excellent and proven tools, including BuzzStream and Raven Tools.

Google delivers ‘disavow links’ tool to help combat link spam by CNET News

Steven MusilSteven Musil reports on Google’s disavow links tool, designed to enable webmasters to remove links they believe might be hurting their search rankings. Of course, it’s not always obvious what constitutes a “bad” link, and if good links are accidentally deleted, it’s a time-consuming process to get them reinstated. Still, this is a vital tool—when all else fails.

4 Tools Breaking Your Backlinks into Categories by Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann SmartyThe awesome Ann Smarty reviews four tools for categorizing backlinks in various ways, such as by source type (e.g., news site, blog, directory), topic (general, computers, fashion) and placement (footer, site-wide, image, comment), which can be very helpful in executing a web presence optimization strategy. The good news is that all of these tools can provide some valuable filtering and insights; the bad news is none yet provide a high level of comprehensiveness and accuracy.

And Finally…

79 Link Building Resources for 2012 by KISSmetrics

Kristi HinesIf you just can’t enough link building information, Kristi Hines here provides links to 79 more link-building resources ranging from “Thought Pieces on Post-Penguin Link Building” and types of links to avoid to the top link-building tools and blogs.

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20 (More of the) Best SEO Guides, Tips and Insights of 2011

SEO remains the most cost-effective way to drive website traffic. B2B websites often receive anywhere from 30%-60% from organic search, with 50% or more sometimes coming from Google alone.

But SEO is changing. Directory links are worth less, social links worth more, site performance is increasing in importance, site age is decreasing…how is a digital marketer to keep up?

Discover how to use Google Analytics data, technical tweaks, website audits, keyword research, fresh content, social media activities and more for SEO success here in 20 more of the best SEO guides of 2011, a follow-up to 40 of the Best SEO Guides, Tips and Insights of 2011 (So Far) published last November.

7 Sure-Fire Signs Your SEO Sucks by HubSpot Blog

Corey EridonCorey Eridon presents signs that your SEO efforts may be headed down the wrong path, along with guidance for fixing each issue. Example: “2.) Content sounds like it was written by an SEO expert from 1999. There are lots of things from the 90s that are still quite magical in 2011: alternative music, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, boy band choreography. 90s SEO is not on that list.”

Using Data to Drive SEO Results by Search Engine Watch

Ray ComstockRay “Catfish” Comstock explains how to divide the SEO data analytics process into three main phases–performance reporting, opportunity identification (e.g., identifying new keywords, internal and external linking opportunities) and prioritization–what data to consider in each phase, and what actions to take based on this analysis.

18 things you need to know about SEO by Bing Webmaster Center Blog

Duane ForresterDuane Forrester steps through the major search factors for Bing (though most apply more broadly), including crawlability (e.g., use a simple URL structure, avoid session variables or docIDs, include an XML sitemap and a robots.txt file), content hierarchy and on-page factors, as well as “black hat” tactics to avoid.

301 Redirects: Implementing Your SEO ‘Change of Address’ Card by MediaPost Search Insider

Janet Driscoll MillerExplaining that “301 redirects are like a ‘change of address’ card for the search engines — they indicate that an existing page URL has moved and where the search engine can find it,” Janet Driscoll Miller shows how to create these vital page redirects on Linux and IIS servers.

10 Concepts Critical for Aligning SEO to B2B Marketing Strategy by Search Engine Watch

Derek EdmondDerek Edmond asks 10 B2B marketers—including Dianna Huff, Stephanie Tilton, Elizabeth Sosnow (“SEOs have an opportunity to become better storytellers, instead of appearing to be simply ‘link-builders’ in the eyes of some of their clients”), and HubSpot’s Kipp Bodnar—for their thoughts on how “SEOs can better align with strategic marketing.”

Understanding Google’s new sitelinks by Pure Visibility

Eric WortmanEric Wortman explains what Google sitelinks are, how they work, when Google displays them, what this means for your company website, and what you can do to take advantage of this expanded real estate now available on page one of Google results.

Search Engine Speculation: Predicting Future Ranking Factors by SEOmoz

Daniel DeceusterUnderstanding key search engine ranking factors is vital for SEO success, and Google keeps this challenge interesting with its continual algorithm changes. Rather than focus on the current top ranking factors here though, Dan Deceuster speculates about the future and divides what he believes will become more critical ranking factors into six “v” categories: value, validity, variety, vision, volume and visitors.

The First 7 Items On Your SEO Audit To-Do List by Search Engine Watch

Eric EngeFrequent best-of honoree Eric Enge steps through the seven most important tasks for a one-day SEO site audit, starting with looking at Google Webmaster Tools information for the site and working through site stats, crawl issues and competitive backlink comparisons.

HOW TO: Guide to Performing Website Audits by Techipedia

Harrison Jones walks through a mix of art (content optimization, meta tags, website design) and science (canonicalization, microdata, website architecture, and use of the insidious nofollow tag) techniques for auditing and optimizing a website.

Bringing Down the House: How SEO is Like Blackjack by Content Marketing Institute

Brendan CournoyerBrendan Cournoyer compares SEO to blackjack, with Google as the dealer (the “house”) and SEO practitioners as the various players at the table, some relying on skill and others trying less savory tactics to win the game—tactics that sometimes produce short-term wins but at the risk large losses in the end.

10 SEO Metrics you can’t live without by SEO Takeaways

Himanshu SharmaIn solid thought though slightly broken English, Himanshu Sharma details the three most important dimensions and ten most critical metrics to track within Google Analytics for SEO purposes, concluding that “These are the only 10 metrics you need to quickly and accurately track the performance of any traffic source or dimension.”

An SEO Checklist for New Sites – Whiteboard Friday by The Daily SEO Blog

Rand FishkinFrequent best-of honoree Rand Fishkin steps through his recommended SEO checklist for optimizing new websites, beginning with accessibility and keyword targeting and progressing through considerations like content quality, design, usability and link building.

8 Durable SEO Elements by Search Engine Watch

Erez BarakHow should SEOs cope with Google’s constantly changing algorithms, which can cause wild short-term gyrations in rankings? (Other than with alcohol?) Erez Barak believes that these eight elements remain durable through the Google chaos, including basic on-page optimization, quality inbound links, positive user experience (e.g. page load speed) and content freshness.

Ten things you didn’t know about SEO by The Globe and Mail

Krista_LaRiviereNoting that SEO is more difficult to control than email marketing or paid search because “Tracking, measuring and reporting results has become increasingly complicated, especially since factors affecting SEO change on a daily basis,” Krista LaRiviere of gShift Labs identifies 10 key concepts to understand for SEO success, among them keyword research, legitimate backlinks, quality content and social signals.

Are you placing too big of a bet on social media’s direct impact on SEO rankings? by ZDNet Whistleblower Blog

Stephen ChapmanStephen Chapman contends that social signals don’t play as large a role in Google rankings many people believe they do, as they should, and as they likely eventually will. Using data on several well-regarded and unknown SEO companies, he shows that keyword links, even as part of an unnatural link profile, still play an outsized role in rankings.

The 10 Google Panda ranking factors by The Web Citizen

Elias ChelidonisIlias Chelidonis presents an infographic showing the key ranking factors post-Panda, such as overall website quality and trust, brand indicators and social signals, as well as a timeline of the Panda rollout and updates.

How to Optimize PDFs and Documents for Search by Link-Assistant.com

Olga GabdulkhakovaPDFs are a challenge for SEO: they are the ideal method to present certain types of content (e.g. long reports), but offer few options for optimization. Olga Gabdulkhakova identifies five tactics that can be used to improve search rankings for PDF documents, such as including keywords in titles, making sure the text is indexed, and building links just as one would to HTML content.

Beyond SEO: Retaining the Visitor by Search Engine Land

Josh McCoyJosh McCoy advises focusing on the user experience as much as SEO; it’s not enough just to get visitors to your site, what adds value is keeping them there and, ultimately, getting them to convert. Among his recommendations: quit using (or minimize the use of) PDFs; make sure links to external sites (e.g. your social profiles) open in a new window so you aren’t sending visitors away; and my favorite, “provide me with a main navigation that gives me a roadmap to an end goal that makes us both happy. There is nothing interesting about navigation queues like Home, Services, Careers, and About Us.”

Introducing the Controversial Theory of “Peak SEO” by Coconut Headphones

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Ted IvesTed Ives compares keywords to crude oil, an analogy that makes some sense as the supply of both is fixed. Beginning with “Each keyword is like a tiny oil well, that will always give up some oil, but only with increasing effort over time.  Eventually the keyword becomes too expensive to bother with, so you must move on. But what happens when there are no more keywords to move on to?” he notes that the situation is actually worse than that, as SERPS become increasingly cluttered with maps and the like, and more people try to get into the search field. Fortunately, Ted also notes several potential paths out of this conundrum.

Preparing For A New Era Of B2B SEO by Search Engine Land

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Brad NeelanWriting that “as we move into 2012 and beyond, quality SEO is about having your marketing assets findable when customers are searching across the dimensions of the pre-, present, and future stages of the purchase cycle,” Brad Neelan outlines SEO strategy and execution for B2B marketers, including an outstanding B2B SEO Framework diagram suitable for presentations and posting on cubicle walls.

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