Hot Links To Beat The Heat | This Month In SEO – 8/08

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
—Henry James

I wonder how many 100 degree days Henry James lived through. I’ve experienced one too many the last couple of months. Still why not dedicate This Month In SEO to the end of summer. By the time we met again the leaves will be turning and fall will bring with it cooler air. A special shout out to my brother David who celebrates a birthday every August.

As always there’s much to get to and much more at my various social media profiles. Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Sphinn. And if you’re looking for a little more in depth conversation you can catch me at my new Small Business Forum.

Ok, enough about me. Enjoy the links and on with the show.

Social Media

Does your business “get” social media? Many still don’t and try to force traditional marketing methods on social networks with less than the best results. Whether your business is big or small social media marketing is a great investment of time.

Fortunately small business doesn’t need to live near the cutting edge. That’s not to say you should ignore the social web. Do so at your own peril. Maybe the secret to “getting it” is a little more reading to understand the landscape.

Ok, you do “get” social media and are playing in the space. You’ve likely realized you can learn a lot from using a service like StumbleUpon for a year. You might even have figured out a few of the ingredients for a successful Digg campaign. If not, you can always mimic some of the habits of those diggers who have a successful track record.

Looking past SU and Digg? Maybe the new features at Mixx will be more to your liking or perhaps new services like Social Browse and Social Median will be the ones to hook you.

Twitter is still the big name in social networking, despite challengers. You don’t need to be a big brand to make it work for you. Not all is rosy of course, particularly when it comes to Twitter’s business model or lack thereof. But Twitter’s problems aren’t necessarily yours and tips abound for getting the most out of the service.

One of the upstarts, Plurk, is finding it’s users come up with creative uses for the service that you should care about. With so many networking services out there it can be difficult to participate in all the conversations. If that describes you then FriendFeed may be just the thing to keep up with all the discussion.

Blogging

Reading is fundamental if you want to be a better writer, but do you know how to read? Of course you can read, but do you really know how to read to improve your writing skills? It might even help you find your passion so you know what it is you want to blog about. Passionate or not, at some point you’ll likely be stuck to find a new topic. Topic in hand should you follow best practice to keep your posts short? Screw that, just write for your audience.

You know how to read, you’ve found your passion, and you’re not worried about how long your posts are. How exactly do you craft these things called blog posts? Good thing for us Darren has a series going. Is it a list post you want to write? It takes more than a number of bullet points to make them perfect. And with all this writing you’re going to need something to write with. I use Scribefire, but perhaps another tool will be write right for you.

Great content is the foundation for a successful blog, but it’s not enough. You still need readers. It’s one of those if a blog post falls in the forest sort of things. If you want to grow your readers you need to understand the audience you do have. What do they want? What makes them tick? How do you get them to engage more with your blog? And if you’re a company blogger take a few tips from someone who blogs for one of the biggest companies around.

WordPress

The more I work with WordPress, the more I like it, and the more I realize how capable it is to act as more than just a blogging platform. WordPress has matured to the point where it can serve as a full content management system that’s truly customizable.

Working with it is not all that hard and will a little learning you can easily create your own WordPress template. The development community is active and you don’t need to look far to find themes, tutorials, and resources.

WordPress is not immune to comment spam, but with a few simple tweaks and a plugin or two you can seriously cut down on the amount of spam your blog receives.

Even if you’re not a theme developer you can still make improvements to your theme. You can make your blogroll more dynamic with the help of some script libraries, you can add an overlay login form, or you can add links to make social bookmarking your content easier for your readers. And again, with such an active development community it’s easy to find simple hacks for most common requests.

Ok, I love WordPress, but I admit the built in search isn’t that useful. Instead of complaining about it you can take search into your own hands by integrating something like Ligit into your blog. Too much work? Then just install a plugin to make WordPress search suck less. While you’re in plugin mode you can install one to manage your ads or take advantage of the many available plugins to improve WordPress SEO.

Design And Development

Hopefully you don’t need to be convinced about the importance of web design. Less is more and a simple design can really help your business. Assumptions can be costly and you should avoid common pitfalls with elements like forms.

Do look beyond the obvious, though. Just because every other ecommerce site has the same setup on their category pages, doesn’t mean you should too. Hopefully if you give your site enough attention you won’t see signs that it’s underperforming.

Form follows function. Your design should be functional first and pretty second. It should function for the average user as well as those with difficulty hearing. Your site should work well for as many people as possible and it should be easy to navigate. But it can still be pretty and your navigation can still be very creative. Just make sure it works.

Do you get tired of seeing the same fonts used on every site. I do. I’m even more tired of using the same few fonts when developing new sites. Sometimes I see a font I like, but don’t know which one it is. Good thing there are tools to help identify them.

But still it’s not like you can use any font you want, can you? Maybe you can. If you don’t mind a little Flash, you can always try sIFR3 (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement). And if you don’t want to go the Flash route you can always use FLIR (Facelift Image Replacement).

JavaScript libraries are a great way to build extra functionality into your site’s interface. One library that’s quickly gained popularity is jQuery. If you’re not sure how to get started with jQuery has Yura got a guide for you.

One way to take advantage of jQuery is through simple css sprites that can add some nice effects to rollovers on your navigation. jQuery isn’t the only library of course. MooTools is another popular library and you might enjoy taking it for a spin to create a spectacular photo gallery for your site.

Site visitors probably aren’t viewing your source code, but that’s no reason your css should be sloppy. By following a few simple principles your css can be clean and optimized and by following a few more you can be a css master. It doesn’t end with your css though. You can and should learn best practices for the entire development life cycle; from preparing a contract to administering the site after it’s finished.

Link Building

Your content is great, but what are you doing to promote it? If your content falls in the forest…wait, didn’t we do this already. There’s a difference between building links to content and promoting content so it attracts links. So why aren’t people linking to your best content? Maybe you need to grow your network of influential friends. Then again maybe that great content wasn’t as linkworthy as you first thought and you’re back to building links to it.

So I link to Jenny and she links to Bill. Bill links back to me and also links to Suzie. What time does the train arrive in Chicago? Huh? No one said there would be any math in this post. Sure we all know links are important, but how different links might be viewed by search engines can get confusing in a hurry. How exactly does the link graph work?

Is it woven like macrame? Is it about being kind to others? I do know it’s not about being selfish and hoarding links. Jenny, Bill, and Suzie are more likely to link to you if you remember to link out to them.

Authority links are great, but what is authority? Does anyone really know? Could it be we still need PageRank to help us figure it out? Anchor text is important, right? Or could it be that Google is changing the algorithm to make it less important? It really does get confusing sometimes, especially if so many SEO gurus are teaching you the wrong things.

But you want more links don’t you? Maybe the answer is adding fries to your meal. Maybe all you need to do is expand a little on past techniques. Sometimes the answer is in observation. By keeping your eyes open could you really find something so effective you’re surprised it’s even allowed? And do you really need to wait for links? Won’t some link building methods provide instant or nearly instant links back to your site.

SEO

Once you start your keyword research when do you stop. You can dig and mine for words forever, but really how many keywords are enough? You’ll likely want to know whether your market refers to your products in plural or singular, but do you need to rethink stop words? You should try to own the SERPs for navigational queries and you might want to think about queries looking for the freshest results.

One reason to go deep into the tail with keywords is to help new sites rank. New sites simply don’t have the links to compete for competitive phrases. By digging deeper you can uncover those phrases with less competition that can drive traffic while you build links.

Of course you don’t need to settle for low competition phrases. As long as your patient you can spread the field a bit and little by little start pulling traffic from the head as well as the tail. You may not need to compete for everything though. Is your business local. Does it matter if people outside your area find your site? Local is where it’s at for many so don’t forget to add your location to your page titles.

Really, what is black hat anyway? Is it automatically unethical? I mean, Google won’t always penalize you for things like keyword stuffing. They even like to have a little bit of spam in their results, hard as it may be to believe. And let’s face it most black hats aren’t anywhere near as slimy as some internet marketers you’ve come across. Viagra anyone?

Business And Marketing

At the heart of every successful business is a solid business model. But could it be that having a bassackwards business model is the way to succeed online? Or is a seemingly bassackwards model not so backwards at all?

You do need to think about how you’ll monetize your site so choose your strategy wisely. Do you sell products? Did you know that some simple pricing changes can greatly impact your bottom line. There’s a lot to the psychology of pricing.

AdSense is a popular monetization strategy, but should it be? Is it time to say goodbye to AdSense? Or is success all about finding the right niche? A little split testing might be the thing to increase your ad revenue.

Advertisers tend to look down on the content network that is AdSense, but should they? Advertisers do have ways to make the content network work for them. And if you’re part of the network it might be a good idea to understand those ways in order to make your site more attractive to advertisers.

Like it or not you don’t control the conversation about your business. Product reviews count more than product descriptions. What do you do though, when a competitor leaves a negative review. Should you ignore it or fight back? One thing you don’t want to do is fake your persona. Genuine is what resonates.

Your time is limited so use it wisely. Learn to manage your time and do your homework so you know the right project to work on. Spending a little time up front to research your market can save you both hours and money down the road. Email is one way you can reach a lot of people in a short amount of time and get your message out. Some say it’s all about the list, others see it as spam, but before you make up your mind read Chris Garrett’s series on email marketing.

Search Engine News

Google made a few changes that will affect optimization. They’ve begun searching for synonyms, which should make all those advising to write naturally happy.

Google Suggest finally moved from the lab to the general public. Most people will see it as a useful way to save a few keystrokes, but the savvy will see it as a way to gain new insights into keywords. Google also released Insights for Search to compare search volume across regions, categories, and time frames.

Google is not the only search engine. It just feels like it sometimes. Sure there’s Yahoo and Live and isn’t that Jeeves guy still around in some form? Cuil is the latest competitor hyped to take away Google market share, but is it all that relevant. Maybe the biggest competition for Google will come from meta search engines, though given many of the meta engines are pulling Google results is it really competition?

And Now For Something Completely Different

If you made it this far, you’ve absorbed a lot of information. I thought you might like a look at the lighter side of the world we live in. Enjoy a fairy tale, some comical seo sales pitches, and the best answers anyone has every given to Google’s interview questions. Who says SEO can’t be fun?

Time to enjoy a long weekend if you’re in the U.S. If you’re not, expect a quieter Monday than usual as many of us are firing up the grills and saying an unofficial goodbye to summer. When August began Boulder was in the midst of 100 degree temperatures. August is leaving town with more bearable days and cooler nights. I’m looking forward to fall and don’t mind the summer goodbye.

Enjoy your weekend wherever you are, whatever you do, and no matter how many days you get to stay away from work. Happy reading.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

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